ED expands Second Chance Pell Grant program

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The U.S. Education Department (ED) on Tuesday announced it is again expanding a pilot program that offers Pell grants to qualifying inmates to provide education as a means of reducing recidivism and easing the transition out of prison.

The department has invited 73 colleges and universities to participate in the third round of the Second Chance Pell Experiment, an initiative launched during the Obama administration to expand access to Pell grants for incarcerated individuals enrolled in participating programs. With the expansion — which includes about 30 public two-year colleges — a total of 200 postsecondary institutions are eligible to participate in the pilot.

The selected schools, which are not obligated to participate in the program, may begin accessing Pell grants as early as July 1.

ED also said it will change policies that will help incarcerated individuals with defaulted loans, including affirming that they qualify for a “fresh start,” which returns borrowers with defaulted loans to repayment in good standing and allows them to access programs like the Second Chance program.

Related article: Ban on Pell Grant eligibility for inmates lifted: What’s next?

“Access to high-quality postsecondary education is essential to incarcerated individuals, but for far too long, people in prison were left out,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a 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 educational opportunities that will provide second chances to build a future.”

ED created Second Chance Pell in 2015 through its Experimental Sites Initiative, a program authorized by the Higher Education Act that allows the department to waive certain federal student aid statutory or regulatory requirements. Through it, the department can evaluate whether to apply new policy ideas more broadly.

Since 2015, incarcerated individuals participating in the program have earned more than 7,000 credentials, including postsecondary certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees, according to ED.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.