Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced it will expand the Second Chance Pell experiment for the 2022-2023 award year. The Second Chance Pell experiment has provided education opportunities for thousands of justice-involved individuals who have previously been unable to access federal need-based financial aid. The expansion will allow up to 200 colleges and universities to offer their prison education programs with support from the Pell Grant program, up from the 131 currently participating. To date, students have earned over 7,000 credentials, building new skills and improving their odds of success. Expansion of the experiment is part of the Department’s efforts to expand access and equity in higher education. Providing education in prisons is proven to reduce recidivism rates and is associated with higher employment rates, which will improve public safety and allow individuals to return home to their communities and contribute to society.
“Education plays a crucial role in peoples’ ability to prosper and advance,” said Amy Loyd, Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. “Too often justice-impacted individuals are left out of the higher-education landscape. With the expansion of the Second Chance Pell experiment, we are taking a crucial step toward the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students. The steps we’ve taken to include more geographic and program diversity in the experiment will strengthen our understanding of the needs of both the institutions and the students they serve.”
The Obama-Biden Administration launched the Second Chance Pell experiment in 2015, providing Pell Grants to incarcerated students in up to 67 programs through postsecondary education programs in state and federal prisons. The program was expanded in 2020 to allow up to 67 additional programs to participate. Since 2015, over 22,000 unique participants have enrolled in a Second Chance Pell Program across 30 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In December 2020, lawmakers expanded access to Pell Grants once again to include students who are incarcerated, as long as they are enrolled in prison education programs that are approved by their state corrections departments or the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and that meet other requirements. This expansion of the Second Chance Pell experiment will allow for opportunities to study the best practices for implementing the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students, and will expand the geographic range of the programs, with the goal of including programs in most, or all fifty states. It will also allow for the inclusion of an even wider variety of postsecondary education programs serving a more diverse population.
The Department intends to implement the legislative changes to allow eligible students in college-in-prison programs to access federal Pell Grants beginning on July 1, 2023. The Department has also announced plans to publish regulations on the program prior to its implementation and held public hearings in June of 2021.
Institutions interested in applying to participate in the new cohort of Second Chance Pell may submit an application to the Department. Applications will be open from July 30, 2021 for institutions to be accepted for the 2022-23 award year.