They saw the demise of college in prison. Thirty years later, it’s coming back.

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As Pell Grant eligibility returns for people in prison on July 1, College Inside wanted to know what the moment was like when higher education went away almost 30 years ago. They asked four lifers to share their experiences with Pell Grants before 1994, when Congress eliminated access to federal financial aid for incarcerated students, in their own words.

Their stories have been edited for length and clarity.