ED Announces Expansion of Second Chance Pell Program

Related Topic in the Ref Desk: Pell Grant

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter 

The Department of Education (ED) on Friday announced that it would be expanding its Second Chance Pell experiment by inviting new educational institutions to participate in the program.

The program allows approved institutions of higher education to provide Pell Grants to incarcerated students. There are currently 131 institutions participating in the program, but Friday’s announcement will allow for up to 200 two- and four-year colleges and universities to provide Pell Grants for their programs through the Second Chance Pell experiment

Institutions interested in applying to participate in the new cohort of Second Chance Pell may submit an application to the Department. An electronic announcement also published on Friday includes instructions on how schools should submit their applications to ED, and additional details on the information that should be included.  Applications will be open from July 30, 2021 for institutions to be accepted for the 2022-23 award year, and should be submitted no later than October 28, 2021.

This most recent expansion of the Second Chance Pell program follows the December 2020 passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which restored Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students who were previously restricted from accessing grants due to a 1994 ban. The Friday announcement noted that ED would implement the full restoration of Pell eligibility "to allow eligible students in college-in-prison programs to access federal Pell Grants beginning on July 1, 2023."  ED has announced plans to publish regulations on Pell eligibility for prison education programs prior to this implementation.

The Second Chance Pell program’s expansion is “a crucial step toward the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students,” said Amy Loyd, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. “The steps we’ve taken to include more geographic and program diversity in the experiment will strengthen our understanding of the needs of both the institutions and the students they serve.”

"This is an exciting announcement that represents an important step towards improving postsecondary access and success for incarcerated students across the nation. The expansion of Second Chance Pell will allow additional institutions to offer prison education programs during the 2022-23 award year and, most importantly, will ensure that more students are able to access Pell Grants before the full restoration of eligibility is implemented in the coming years," said Rachel Gentry, assistant director of federal and state relations at NASFAA. "As ED, prison education practitioners, and the higher education community work towards implementation, this timely expansion offers an opportunity for all stakeholders to better understand the unique challenges impacting incarcerated students, and to thoughtfully identify and promote promising practices learned through Second Chance Pell. Increasing both the volume of Second Chance Pell institutions and the breadth of prison education programs available to students will ensure that the higher education community is well-positioned to contribute to the successful implementation of Pell reinstatement in July of 2023.”

NASFAA convened a Pell Restoration Working Group, which began work in February 2021, to examine the implications that Pell reinstatement may have on the financial aid community, and develop recommendations to address the unique challenges that incarcerated students experience throughout the aid application process. The group is currently seeking feedback from members of the financial aid and prison education communities on the challenges, promising practices, and outstanding questions related to the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students.

The group developed this survey to collect input from a broad group of stakeholders that will inform its recommendations for a smooth implementation of Pell restoration that promotes postsecondary access and success for incarcerated students. The survey is open to all interested stakeholders, including NASFAA members and non-members. All individuals with experience or interest in serving incarcerated students are encouraged to submit feedback, including financial aid administrators, prison education practitioners, institutions involved in Second Chance Pell, and other organizations/government agencies. Please submit your responses by Wednesday, August 4 and be sure to learn more about this survey and the Pell Restoration Working Group.

Stay tuned to Today’s News for more news concerning Second Chance Pell and the reinstatement of Pell eligibility for incarcerated students.


Publication Date: 8/2/2021

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