Federal and state prisoners to receive financial aid to pursue college degrees

8:13 AM College Lawyer Blog 0 Comments

Friday, 6/24/16



Starting July 1st, after twenty-two years under congressional ban, prisoners will once again be able to receive financial aid to earn associate and bachelor degrees despite being behind bars. 

Congress barred inmates from acquiring Pell grants, grants that the United States Government provides for students in need of financial aid, in 1994.  Although the ban is still intact, President Obama, under his administration's authority, is developing programs that will allow prisoners to receive financial aid and a push to lead fuller lives upon their release. 

On Thursday, sixty-seven colleges and universities were approved to educate prisoners under the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program.  Inmates that qualify for Pell grants are enrolling from one-hundred plus federal and state penitentiaries.  Those who receive grants will be provided with federal aid in the form of tuition, books, and the payment of college fees. Instruction will be provided in class, online, or through a hybrid of the two. However, prisoners must be eligible for release within five years of enrolling in coursework.     

The idea that prisoners are receiving financial aid has many critics upset. Why let inmates, of all people, dip their fingers into an already limited supply of financial aid dollars?  

"We all agree that crime must have consequences, but the men and women who have done their time and paid their debt deserve the opportunity to break with the past and forge new lives in their homes, workplaces and communities," Education Secretary John B King Jr. responded to critics. "This belief in second chances is fundamental to who we are as Americans."

Furthermore, King explained that the twelve-thousand inmates that are set to begin classes next month are taking up less than 0.1 percent of the Pell program's thirty billion dollar fund. Additionally, the pilot program will not affect those who are receiving Pell grants despite not being incarcerated.

"Helping incarcerated men and women to gain new knowledge, skills, and credentials increases their chances of living successful lives, saves public dollars and makes our communities and our country safer and stronger," King added.

The Second Chance Pell Pilot program is just a small fraction of the programs and policies that the Obama administration is implementing in an attempt to reform the incarceration system.

Click here to gather more information on the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program and the 12,00 inmates to receive to take college classes 

Seth Canner
Assistant Editor-In-Chief, CLB
Law Clerk, Levitt Law Firm 


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