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‘It Is a Momentous Day:’ Panel Gives Tips to Administer Financial Aid As Pell Grants Become Widely Available to Incarcerated Students Again

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

With Pell Grant eligibility officially restored to incarcerated students on Saturday, July 1, experts gathered for a panel at NASFAA’s 2023 National Conference on Friday to discuss how to provide financial aid to incarcerated students and how institutions can create their own prison education programs. 

The panel was moderated by Rachel Gentry Rotunda, NASFAA’s director of government relations, and included Sheila Meiman, NASFAA’s prison education specialist, Keyimani Alford, dean of student access and success at Madison Area Technical College, and Allan Wachendorfer, senior program associate at the Vera Institute of Justice. Meiman and attendees celebrated the historic step for incarcerated students, who were previously restricted from accessing grants due to a federal ban implemented in 1994. 

“It is a momentous day,” Meiman said. “This is the last day that people who are incarcerated are prohibited by statute from receiving federal financial aid after almost 30 years. As Rachel said, it’s been an effort of an awful lot of people and organizations.”

The group provided information and explanations on how institutions can become a prison education program, how FAFSA simplification will impact administering aid to incarcerated students, and other tips. 

The group noted that on Friday, the Department of Education (ED) announced that it will launch its application for institutions to offer prison education programs. ED said it will begin accepting applications on July 3, 2023, and will approve applications on a rolling basis. Instructions for the application and other information are posted in an Electronic Announcement on the Federal Student Aid Partner Connect Portal

“I call on colleges and postsecondary programs across our country to meet this moment and step up to serve people who’ve been impacted by the criminal justice system, who for the first time in three decades will be eligible for Pell Grants to help pay for education,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement on Friday. “This historic moment marks the start of a nationwide effort that could help over 760,000 individuals who are currently incarcerated pursue degrees, credentials, and skills that set them up for success and lead to brighter futures.”


Publication Date: 7/1/2023

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