Second Chance Pell: Six Years of Expanding Higher Education Programs in Prisons 2016–2022

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The Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative (SCP), launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015, provides need-based Pell Grants to people in state and federal prisons. The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) provides technical assistance to the participating colleges and corrections departments to ensure that the programs provide high-quality postsecondary education in prison and after release. This report describes a summary of the first six years of the experiment and primarily focuses on information from the 2021–2022 financial aid year, using survey responses from 75 participating colleges with enrolled students funded through Second Chance Pell during this period.

Key Takeaway

Second Chance Pell has enabled more than 40,000 students to enroll in postsecondary education while incarcerated. Almost all participating colleges will continue their prison education programs using Pell Grants following the close of the experiment. However, racial and gender disparities persist in both enrollments and completions.

Publication Highlights

  • More than 40,000 students participated in postsecondary education funded through Second Chance Pell between 2016 and 2022.

  • Over the past six years, SCP students have earned almost 12,000 credentials.

  • Student enrollments and completions rebounded in the 2021–2022 financial aid year after showing slower growth during the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Facts