Ending Mass IncarcerationBringing Dignity to Life Behind Bars

Higher Education

The U.S. labor market is changing fast. By 2018, an estimated two-thirds of job postings will require some level of postsecondary education. For incarcerated men and women already disadvantaged in the job market, higher education truly is a key to success after release.

Our pilot program in three states yielded lessons and evidence that the federal Department of Education and corrections agencies and colleges and universities around the country are now using to bring college into prison and continue to support people in their studies for two years after release. It’s an investment in personal transformation that pays off in increased employment and income—a boon for low-income families and communities—and no surprise, recidivism rates that studies suggest are as much as 72 percent lower.

Related Work

College in Prison Adapts as COVID-19 Upends Education in Schools Everywhere

Daniela, who received her associate’s degree in 2014, says going to college and getting a degree while in prison gave her a second chance “to be who [she] always wanted to be.” But for decades, getting that second chance and accessing higher education has been a challenge for people like Daniela. The Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiativ ...

Blog Post
  • Margaret diZerega
    Margaret diZerega
  • Nazish Dholakia
    Nazish Dholakia
April 28, 2021
Blog Post

Second Chance Pell: Four Years of Expanding Access to Education in Prison

The Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015, provides need-based Pell Grants to people in state and federal prisons. The initiative examines whether expanding access to college financial aid increases incarcerated adults’ participation in postsecondary educational opportunities. This re ...

Publication
  • Kelsie Chesnut, ​Allan Wachendorfer
April 27, 2021
Publication

Series: Target 2020

Voters in Battleground States Favor Restoring Pell Grants for People in Prison

These battleground state voters seem to understand that reinstating Pell eligibility for the greatest number of people in prison is a sound investment in our future. Plenty of other influential voices agree. Bipartisan momentum to get rid of the Pell ban for people in prison has been growing steadily: Since early 2019, the Association of State Cor ...

Blog Post
  • Margaret diZerega
    Margaret diZerega
September 29, 2020
Blog Post

Lessons from Second Chance Pell

A Toolkit for Helping Incarcerated Students Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education announced the Second Chance Pell (SCP) experiment under the Experimental Sites Initiative, which allows incarcerated students who would be eligible for Pell Grants—a form of federal financial aid—if they were not incarcerated to access them while attending an eligible academic program offered by one of the ...

Publication
  • ​Allan Wachendorfer, Michael Budke
April 03, 2020
Publication

A Piece of the Puzzle

State Financial Aid for Incarcerated Students

Postsecondary education in prison puts people on a path toward a brighter future by disrupting the cycle of poverty and incarceration. But it has not been offered at scale due to the numerous barriers—including the 1994 ban on Pell Grants to people in prison—that prevent students and postsecondary institutions from accessing state and federal fundi ...

Publication
  • Lauren Hobby, Brian Walsh, Ruth Delaney
July 11, 2019
Publication