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Wisconsin Prisoners Eligible for Second Chance Pell Grants
Date: October 25, 2016 09:23AM

Wisconsin Prisoners Eligible for Second Chance Pell Grants

Division of Adult Institutions Education Director Margaret Carpenter has confirmed that Milwaukee Area Technical College in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections has been awarded for a $1.45 million Pell Grant to serve 250 inmates.

Programs included in the grant are Technical College Certificates, Diplomas and Associate Degrees in a number of pre-identified areas.

Sixteen institutions have been identified for inmate/student participation:
• Eleven Medium Male Institutions – FLCI, JCI, KMCI, MSDF, NLCI, OSCI, PDCI, RCI, RGCI, RYOCF, SCI
• Three Minimum Male Institution – FCCC, MSCC, OCI
• One Medium Female Institution – TCI
• One Minimum Female Center – REECC

After receiving 200 applications from throughout the nation, the U.S. Department of Education released in June a list of 67 colleges and universities chosen for a pilot program that will offer Pell Grants to incarcerated students. The colleges will offer need-based grants to prisoners pursuing a degree. The grants are part of a series of education and jobs programs, all focused on helping former prisoners re-enter their communities and find work.

The Second Chance Pell Grant program will enroll 12,000 prisoners at more than 100 correctional institutions across the country. It’s geared toward prisoners likely to be released within the next five years.

Most of the colleges chosen will offer classes in person at the correctional facilities, while some will offer online classes. Many also plan to offer a range of support services and tailor their instruction to local labor markets.

“This belief in second chances is fundamental to who we are as Americans,” John King Jr., the Department of Education Secretary, said.

The 67 schools that were Department of Education finalists are a mix of two-year and four-year institutions from across the country. King said that student recruitment, student success and compliance with student aid programs all played a role in the decision process.

While most prisoners have been ineligible for Pell Grants since the U.S. Congress banned the aid in 1994, the Department of Education has authority to waive certain federal rules for the benefit of experimentation. “That ban remains in place until Congress acts,” King said. “We are using our experimental authority under the Higher Education Act to support this pilot.”

The Department of Education’s argument is also financial. King cited a study of prisoner education from the RAND Corporation which concludes that for every dollar invested in prison education, four to five dollars are saved on reincarceration costs. “Second Chance Pell will allow us to measure the costs and benefits of this approach,” he said.

While the new program is a “step in the right direction,” he added, “It’s not the entire solution.” He said that more institutions would likely express interest if Congress restores broad Pell access – or if the Obama administration’s 2017 budget goes through.

King also emphasized that the program, which will not affect any other Pell awardees, is only a small part of the overall Pell budget – “less than one tenth of 1% of total Pell spending.”

Margaret Carpenter will be disseminating more information on the Wisconsin DOC participation in the second Chance Pell Grant program as it becomes available.

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