Bringing College Back to Prison

Access to college in prison is transformational.

Helping people who are incarcerated advance their education not only sets them up for success after release, but improves safety in our prisons and our communities. It also spurs the economic renewal of communities, and changes the educational trajectory of future generations. Once commonplace, access to college in prison was drastically reduced through the 1994 Crime Bill.

Now, the recently launched federal Second Chance Pell Pilot Program is making need-based financial aid available to students in prison for the first time in 20 years. Through the 69 selected colleges and universities in 28 states (see map), more than 12,000 students will participate in the pilot. In doing so, they will demonstrate what a college education can do for incarcerated men and women, their families, and their communities.

While it may seem radical, the idea of college in prison isn’t new. In this op-ed for The Hill, Vera’s Fred Patrick outlines the history of college in prison and the significance of the Pell Grant initiative to bringing back college in prison for good.
Research shows that incarcerated people who participate in college education programs are 43% less likely to commit new crimes after their release. Hear why corrections officials, college administrators, funders, and students believe in expanding access to college in prison.

Second Chance Pell Convening

Second Chance Pell Convening event in Washington, DC, July 19, 2016

Highlights from the convening in Washington, DC of the 69 sites selected for the Second Chance Pell Pilot program, including a conversation between U.S. Secretary of Education John King and three students who have attended college in prison.Watch: Welcoming remarks Keynote: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates  Keynote: U.S. Secretary of Educat ...

Video Playlist
July 19, 2016
Video Playlist
Watch highlights from our recent kick-off convening of the Second Chance Pell Pilot with the 69 selected sites, including a conversation between U.S. Secretary of Education John King and three students who have taken college in prison.

Making the Grade

Developing Quality Postsecondary Education Programs in Prison

With its July 2015 announcement of the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, the U.S. Department of Education ushered in what could be a new era of expanded opportunities for postsecondary education in our nation’s prisons. The Second Chance Pell Pilot makes students incarcerated in state and federal prisons eligible for need-based financial aid in a l ...

  • Ruth Delaney, Ram Subramanian, Fred Patrick
July 18, 2016
Developing high-quality college-in-prison programs comes with challenges, from ensuring transferable credits to working around a lack of Internet access. This report offers lessons from the field on the implementation of such programs in prisons around the country.
More than 60% of jobs will require at least some college education by 2018, but only 6% of people in state prisons are currently enrolled in college courses. One reason for the limited availability of college in prisons is their near-universal lack of digital connectivity.
Of 501 graduates of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison—a privately-funded college-in-prison program in New York State—only five have returned to prison. Meet some of the students and program administrators.
Vivian Nixon explains how pursuing education in prison transformed her own life, and why she works to bring the same opportunity to other women who are incarcerated.