August 12, 2015
Second Chance Pell Grants
As part of the administration’s commitment to create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on communities, the Department of Education has announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program. This program will allow individuals incarcerated in federal or state penal intuitions to receive Pell Grants and pursue a postsecondary education. Its goal is to help individuals get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around. Participation in high-quality correctional education — including postsecondary correctional education — has been shown to measurably reduce re-incarceration rates. By reducing recidivism, correctional education can ultimately save taxpayers money and create safer communities. See the press release and an op-ed by Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch for more information.
This initiative, described in more detail in this fact sheet, builds on a Dear Colleague Letter that the Department of Education released in December 2014. The letter states that students who are confined or incarcerated in locations that are not penal institutions, such as juvenile justice facilities and local or county jails, and who otherwise meet applicable eligibility criteria, are eligible for Federal Pell Grants.
In 1994, Congress eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for those in federal and state penal institutions. Under the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, incarcerated individuals who meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release, particularly within the next five years, could access Pell Grants. Incarcerated students who receive these grants will be subject to cost of attendance restrictions, so the grants will only be used to pay for the tuition, fees, books, and supplies required by an individual’s education program. These students will not be eligible to receive any other types of federal student aid.
The Higher Education Act authorizes the department to periodically administer experiments to test the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for participating institutions in disbursing student aid. To determine which institutions will be selected for participation in this experiment, the agency will look for evidence that the institution has a strong record in student outcomes and in the administration of Title IV programs. The deadline for institutions to apply for this pilot program is October 2, 2015, for the 2016-17 academic year.