July 30, 2021
The U.S. Department of Education on Friday announced it will grow the Second Chance Pell program, which gives individuals who are incarcerated the chance to receive federal Pell Grants to pursue a credential.
The expansion will add new participating colleges and universities. Now up to 200 will be able to join the experimental site initiative, up from 67 when the program debuted six years ago.
The experiment means to study the best way to implement the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students.
The Education Department began the Second Chance Pell program in 2015. It aims to evaluate the effects of providing Pell Grants for incarcerated students. The program has had more than 22,000 participants across 30 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons since its inception, according to the department.
Under the Trump administration, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expanded the program in 2019, doubling the original cap on participating institutions. DeVos said then the experiment had “shown significant promise.”
Federal lawmakers last year moved to open educational access to incarcerated people, nixing a restriction in place since 1994 preventing them from using Pell Grants. The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which former President Donald Trump signed in December, contained a provision that restored Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated individuals by July 2023. These students must be enrolled in prison education programs approved by their state corrections departments or the federal prison bureau.