By Alexandria Stone
The Department of Education will now offer college-in-prison for prisoners at select federal and state prisons.
The opportunity to receive federal Pell Grant funding can provide as much as $7000 per semester with its Second Chance Program.
The Second Chance program is a federal educational program created to provide incarcerated students, access to more colleges and universities.
President Biden has expanded the Second Chance Pell program in its latest update since 2020, providing more opportunities for Pell Grant funding to incarcerated students at over 200 colleges and universities.
Pell Grants are need-based grants that have provided aid to nearly seven million low-income students each year and were inaccessible to prisoners before 2015.
The program was originally launched in 2015 as an experiment by the Obama-Biden Administration, with only 67 colleges enrolled and 5,000 students receiving Pell Grants in its first year.
Since 2015, the program has reached colleges, universities and prisons across 30 states, including 24 historically black colleges.
With over 22,000 students, the program’s main goal is to influence those who are incarcerated in all 50 states.
This latest program update will roll out during the 2022-2023 year.
According to bestcolleges.com, the program is projected to provide aid to 64% of people in-state and in federal prisons.
The Department of Education intends for Pell Grant funding to begin on July 1.
Prison students must meet the required criteria and qualifications to be part of the program and receive Pell Grant awards.
In December 2020, lawmakers extended Pell Grant funding to incarcerated students, as long as they were enrolled in prison education programs approved by their state corrections departments, prison bureaus and met other requirements.
Last year studentaid.gov listed the limitations prisoners had when receiving Pell Grant funding.
According to the website, “If you’re incarcerated in a federal or state prison, you may not receive Federal Pell Grants, but if you’re incarcerated in a local, municipal or county correctional or juvenile facility and meet Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements, you can receive Federal Pell Grants.”
The Second Chance Program now has fewer restrictions and provides more flexibility for its program.
A list of eligibility requirements can be found on studentaid.gov.
Pbs.org’s Stephanie Sy, interviewed Pedro Rivera, a forty-three-year-old student, part of the Second Chance program.
Rivera has been incarcerated for 16 years for multiple counts of bank robbery says he was watching PBS when his ears “perked up” to the sound of a series called “College Behind Bars.”
Pedro shares with Sy, “More than anything, after watching this program, that’s what I wanted. I signed up for everything I could.
“And finally, someone saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and they said we’re going to give you this opportunity.”
It has been reported that Rivera is now just a few classes away from obtaining a bachelor’s degree and is part of a pioneering program that brings in-prison students together with students outside of prison.
The Department of Education claims, the goal of prison education programs is to decrease the recidivism rates of inmates.
Recidivism is the tendency for previously incarcerated people to commit crimes after their release from prison.