Program Funding

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.

The information provided here is a snapshot of factors to consider when offering programs to students who are incarcerated and who are not eligible for Pell Grants. Universities and colleges are individually operated, and not all strategies are equally applicable.

Leveraging the return of Pell Grants to create additional opportunities for students in correctional facilities at federally approved Prison Education Programs (PEPs) require close collaboration between the college’s prison program office staff, the correctional agency, and the college’s financial aid department. This resource details some of the initial steps in establishing these critical partnerships and getting ready to administer the FAFSA for incarcerated students as a PEP. Keep in mind that the details may vary depending on state and local context.  

Postsecondary institutions can capitalize on existing national data sources to obtain information on prison education programs (PEP) and students. This resource provides a brief overview of the following data sources: 

Postsecondary institutions can capitalize on existing national data sources to obtain information on prison education programs (PEP) and students. This resource provides a brief overview of the following data sources: 

This brief from the National Skills Coalition

The Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015, provides need-based Pell Grants to people in state and federal prisons. Second Chance Pell has active partnerships with 64 colleges that teach in 28 states. The schools were selected in June 2016 for the initiative, which examines whether expanding access to financial aid increases incarcerated adults’ partici­pation in educational opportunities.

Access to education is in high demand among the incarcerated population. There are clear benefits to students who are incarcerated, their families and communities, public safety, and safety inside prisons. Yet the gap in educational aspirations and participation has been largely driven by a lack of capacity due to limited funding.