Biden administration extends federal grants to incarcerated students

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The Department of Education announced on Tuesday that it had invited 73 colleges and universities to participate in the latest round of its Second Chance Pell Experience, an effort to extend access to Pell grants to incarcerated people so that they can take university courses.

Following Tuesday’s announcement, 200 schools will now be able to participate in the program, which was first launched in 2015 under the Obama administration. Two dozen schools newly selected under the initiative’s graduate program are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions.

Through this program, federal and state correctional facilities in nearly every state will work with colleges and universities to enroll incarcerated students in education and training programs.

A broader restoration of access to Pell grants for incarcerated students is set to begin on July 1, 2023, when the Department of Education aims to allow eligible students in incarcerated college programs to access federal grants.

“Access to high-quality post-secondary education is essential for those incarcerated, but for too long those incarcerated have been left behind,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

“The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new default pathways are essential steps for those incarcerated to access educational opportunities that will give them a second chance to build a future for themselves,” he added.

Amy Solomon, Principal Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs, said tuesday that education is “too often excluded for people returning from jails and prisons” when education is in fact “one of the very keys to successful reintegration”.

Solomon added that people who receive an education while incarcerated are 48% less likely to commit a new crime, according to data from the RAND Company. She also noted that “when incarcerated students get a post-secondary education, it costs four times as much.”

The announcement comes as the White House detailed efforts as part of Second Chance Month to reduce recidivism and make employment more accessible to formerly incarcerated people.

On Tuesday, President Biden pardoned three people and commuted the sentences of 75 people, all of whom were convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Meanwhile, the justice and labor departments announced they would invest $145 million in job training and individual employment plans for inmates at Bureau of Prisons facilities.

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