Second Chance Pilot Program Gives Incarcerated Access to Pell Grants
According to a U.S. Department of Education press release on July 31, 2015, the Second Chance Pell Pilot program will be established to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around. The pilot program is part of the Obama Administration's commitment to create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on communities.
According to a Department of Justice funded 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, high-quality correctional education – including postsecondary correctional education – has been shown to measurably reduce re-incarceration rates. The study concluded that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43% less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who didn't participate in any correctional education programs. RAND estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three year re-incarceration costs.
The Second Chance Pell Pilot program will be the first time that those behind bars can have access to Pell Grants since Congress amended the Higher Education Act (HEA) to eliminate Pell Grant eligibility for students in federal and state penal institutions. The pilot program will restore educational opportunities for some of those individuals, improving their chances to stay out of prison and become productive members of their communities after they are released. The program will build on existing research to examine effects of restoring Pell eligibility.
Through this pilot program, incarcerated individuals who otherwise meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release, particularly within the next five years, could access Pell Grants to pursue postsecondary education and training. The goal is to increase access to high-quality educational opportunities and help these individuals successfully transition out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce. Incarcerated students who receive Pell Grants through this pilot will be subject to cost of attendance restrictions, so Pell Grants can only be used to pay for tuition, fees, books and supplies required by an individual's education program. Incarcerated individuals will not be eligible to receive other types of Federal student aid under this pilot.
The pilot program builds upon previous Administration efforts. A report from President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper Task Force" recommended enforcing the rights of incarcerated youth, including access to a quality education and eliminate unnecessary barriers to reentry. Last December, the Departments of Education and Justice released a Correctional Education Guidance Package to improve education programs in juvenile justice facilities and clarified existing rules around Pell Grant eligibility for youth housed in juvenile justice facilities and individuals held in local and county jails. The pilot program is intended to build on this guidance and expand access to high-quality postsecondary educational opportunities and support the successful reentry of adults.
When determining which institutions will be selected for participation in this experiment, the Department of Education will consider evidence that demonstrates a strong record on student outcomes and in the administration of the Title IV HEA programs.
The deadline for postsecondary institutions to apply for this pilot program is September 30, 2015 for the 2016-2017 academic year.
More information on the U.S. Department of Education Second Chance Pell Pilot program is at: [s3.amazonaws.com