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More than Doubling Opportunities for Incarcerated Students to Gain Job Skills and Earn Postsecondary Credential

News Release, U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today the U.S. Department of Education is inviting a new cohort of 67 schools to participate in its Second Chance Pell experiment, creating more education opportunities for incarcerated students. This action expands on the Trump Administration’s commitment to offer incarcerated individuals a second chance upon their re-entry to society, helping to reduce rates of recidivism.

“I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several Second Chance Pell institutions and have seen firsthand the transformative impact this experiment has on the lives of individuals who are incarcerated,” said Secretary DeVos. “By expanding this experiment, we are providing a meaningful opportunity for more students to set themselves up for future success in the workforce. The stories I’ve heard from students and institutions engaged in the experiment are very encouraging, and we look forward to seeing how this expansion will help even more students achieve a better future.”

The expansion announced today more than doubles the size of the experiment, allowing incarcerated students to use Federal Pell Grants at 130 schools located in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Prior to today’s announcement, there were 63 schools located in 26 states participating in this experiment.

After receiving more than 180 letters of interest from colleges and universities, the Department selected the 67 new institutions to participate in the second cohort of the Second Chance Pell Experiment. These institutions were determined to be the most qualified; their selection ensures institutional, programmatic, and geographic diversity among new participants. Nearly two-thirds of the schools invited to participate today are two-year institutions, one-third are minority-serving institutions, and all are either public institutions or private nonprofits. Eight schools plan to deliver instruction through innovative and distance delivery methods, and 18 other schools proposed hybrid models of instruction.

The Second Chance Pell Experiment, originally created in 2015, provides need-based Federal Pell Grants to individuals incarcerated in federal and state prisons. The grants allow incarcerated individuals to receive Federal funding to enroll in postsecondary programs offered by local colleges and universities or distance learning providers. In the first two years of the experiment, institutions were awarded approximately $36.2 million in Federal Pell Grants. According to Federal Student Aid records, nearly 5,000 incarcerated students received Federal Pell Grants in the 2016–17 award year, and 6,750 incarcerated students received Federal Pell Grants in the 2017–2018 award years.  And according to a recent study by the Vera Institute of Justice, more than 4,000 credentials—including postsecondary certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees—have been awarded to Second Chance Pell students over the past three years.

Additionally, according to the Rand Corporation, individuals who participate in correctional education programs are 43% less likely to return to prison than those who do not.


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...