Biden administration expanding federal grants to incarcerated students

The Department of Education announced on Tuesday that it invited 73 colleges and universities to participate in the latest round of its Second Chance Pell Experiment, a push to expand access to Pell Grants to incarcerated people so they can take college courses.

Following Tuesday’s announcement, 200 schools will now be able to participate in the program, which was first launched in 2015 during the Obama administration. Two dozen of the schools newly selected as part of the third round of the initiative are historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions.

Through the program, federal and state penal institutions in nearly every state will collaborate with colleges and universities to enroll incarcerated students in educational and training programs. 

A broader reinstatement of access to Pell Grants for incarcerated students is planned to begin on July 1, 2023, when the Education Department aims to enable eligible students in college-in-prison programs to access the federal grants.

“Access to high-quality postsecondary education is essential to incarcerated individuals, but for far too long, people in prison were left out,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

 “The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new pathways out of default are critical steps for incarcerated individuals to be able to access educational opportunities that will provide second chances to build a future,” he added.

Amy Solomon, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, said Tuesday that education is “too often foreclosed to individuals returning from jails and prisons” when education is in fact “one of the very keys to reentry success.”

Solomon added that people who receive an education while incarcerated are 48 percent less likely to commit a new crime, according to data from the RAND Corporation. She also noted that “when incarcerated students receive a post-secondary education, it pays for itself four times over.”

The announcement comes as the White House has detailed efforts as part of Second Chance Month to reduce recidivism and make employment more accessible for formerly incarcerated people.

On Tuesday, President Biden granted pardons to three people and commuted the sentence of 75 people, all of whom were convicted of nonviolent crimes. 

Meanwhile, the Justice and Labor Departments have said they will invest $145 million in job skills training and individual employment plans for inmates in Bureau of Prisons facilities. 

Tags Amy Solomon Department of Education incarcerated students Miguel Cardona Miguel Cardona Pell Grants

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