The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it will expand the Obama-era Second Chance Pell Grant Experiment to provide more access to higher education for formerly and currently incarcerated individuals. Pell Grant access will be reinstated for incarcerated students in July 2023 and will include up to 200 educational programs, according to a news release.
As part of the expansion, the Education Department invited 73 additional colleges and universities, including 24 Minority-Serving Institutions, to participate in the program. Other changes include a “fresh start” option for inmates who have previously defaulted on student loan payments, allowing them to return to good standing on their loans and access federal financial aid.
“Access to high-quality postsecondary education is essential to incarcerated individuals, but for far too long, people in prison were left out,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the release. “The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new pathways out of default are critical steps for incarcerated individuals to be able to access education opportunities that will provide second chances to build a future.”
The program’s ultimate goal is to reduce prison recidivism and raise employment rates for formerly incarcerated individuals, which in turn will improve overall public safety, according to the department. In fact, a 2018 RAND Corporation study found that inmates who participated in correctional education programs were nearly half as likely to return to prison than other incarcerated individuals.