Incarcerated Students to Get Federal Aid on the Path to Higher Ed

"Higher education could soon become more affordable for more than 700,000 of the incarcerated people in the U.S. Starting July 1, they’ll become eligible for Pell Grants for the first time in nearly 30 years, regardless of sentence length or conviction," Nerd Wallet reports.

..."Some incarcerated students have been able to access Pell Grants for years as part of an experimental program called Second Chance Pell established by President Barack Obama in 2015. As of 2022, incarcerated students had earned more than 7,000 credentials through the program. For example, Georgetown University launched its Prison Scholars Program in 2018 to bring higher education to incarcerated students in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

'Financial aid is one piece of this puzzle,' says Rachel Rotunda, director of government relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. 'This is a big change for students, but it's also a big change for institutions and really the whole higher ed prison education community.'"

..."Incarcerated students are blocked from receiving federal student loans, which can provide undergraduates with up to $12,500 in funds each year that must eventually be paid back.

But if a Pell Grant award is not enough to cover the cost of a prison education program, students may turn to other funding sources. This may also be necessary if a student embarks on multiple degrees or takes extra time to finish a program because Pell Grants can be used for no more than six years.

States like New Jersey and California offer additional grants to incarcerated students, and nonprofits like the Prison Education Foundation and the Transcending Through Education Foundation offer scholarships. Similar to a grant, scholarships typically do not need to be repaid.

And in many cases, the colleges running PEPs are putting their own resources into making them affordable, Rotunda says, 'to ensure that they're able to offer high-quality programming and to provide students the same level of support that they would be providing for any other student.'"

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Publication Date: 6/9/2023

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