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Hundreds graduate from Second Chance Pell college in prison program.

In considering whether to reinstate Pell Grants—need-based grants to low-income students to promote access to postsecondary education—for incarcerated students in state and federal prisons, lawmakers are looking at the Second Chance Pell program.Andrew Kreighbaum, “Building Momentum Behind Prison Education,” Inside Higher Ed, August 29, 2018.

The federal government ended access to Pell Grants for incarcerated people in 1994 as part of its “tough on crime” policy, but the Obama-era Second Chance Pell pilot initiative allowed the Department of Education to waive the ban on a limited basis and allow some incarcerated students to receive the need-based financial aid through a select group of partnerships between postsecondary institutions and state correctional agencies.Andrew Kreighbaum, “Building Momentum Behind Prison Education,” Inside Higher Ed, August 29, 2018. Although a few congressional Republicans criticized the Obama Administration’s initiative when it was first announced, there is growing support to include a provision reinstating Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students when Congress takes up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.Andrew Kreighbaum, “Building Momentum Behind Prison Education,” Inside Higher Ed, August 29, 2018.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative currently provides need-based Pell grants to people in state and federal prisons in partnerships with 65 colleges in 27 states.Vera Institute of Justice, Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, 2018,. According to a report released in June by the Vera Institute of Justice, which provides technical assistance to the participating colleges and corrections departments, in Fall 2017, more than 5,000 students in prison participated, a 236 percent increase from Fall 2016.Vera Institute of Justice, Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, 2018,. Colleges offered more than 1,100 different courses, with an average of 19 courses per site.Vera Institute of Justice, Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, 2018,. A total of 954 credentials were awarded—including 23 bachelor’s degrees and 230 associate’s degrees—to 578 graduates in prison and 34 graduates in the community.Vera Institute of Justice, Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, 2018,.