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December 21, 2020

Congress agrees on education reforms that include restoring Pell Grants for incarcerated persons!!

As well reported in this NPR piece, headlined "Congress Poised To Simplify FAFSA, And Help People In Prison Go To College," it appears federal lawmakers have reaching a deal on an array of higher-education reforms that include a very important reform for incarcerated individuals.  Here are the details (with links) from the NPR piece:

For the past 26 years, one sentence in federal law has withheld federal Pell Grants from the nearly 1.5 million people in state and federal prison. The proposed change would strike this line from the law, and allow incarcerated people eligibility to use federal dollars to pay for college while in prison. This change was already approved by the U.S. House in July.

The ban stems from the 1994 crime bill, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  Without that federal funding, higher education programs in prisons began to disappear.  That's despite research that's shown education to be one of the most cost-effective ways to keep people from returning to prison once they're released.  The Vera Institute of Justice estimates restoring Pell for inmates would open the grant up to about half a million people -- and there's growing interest among higher education providers to once again offer credentials and classes to incarcerated people.

Over the last three years about 17,000 people have enrolled in higher ed classes while in prison, according to the Vera Institute.  That's thanks to a pilot program, started by the Obama administration, called Second Chance Pell. The program made Pell Grants available to a handful of college-in-prison programs across the country, and has won the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

I am not prepared to fully celebrate this news until I see official legislation passed by Congress and signed by the Prez.  But, even before this is fully official, this news is worthy of considerable attention because it impacts all prisons and prisoners nationwide, not just those in the federal system.  Moreover, I have sensed for a number of years that there has been growing "pent-up demand" among colleges to provide instruction to prisoners if and when adequate resources were available to do so.  And now that a pandemic has allowed us to figure out we can (effectively?) provide higher education instruction remotely, these grants could and should be a catalyst for dramatically expanding higher education availability into a segment of society that can and should benefit from it greatly.  Huzzah!

A few of many prior related posts:

December 21, 2020 at 11:38 AM | Permalink


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