For the past seven years, dozens of colleges and universities across the country have been providing hope where there has been almost none, giving prisoners a chance to restart their lives through education. The Biden Administration is hoping to expand that help even further.
The U.S. Department of Education announced it has selected an additional 73 institutions to take part in the Second Chance Pell Experiment, which has helped incarcerated individuals gain access to higher ed programming since 2015. The program, with its third wave of new additions, has now reached 200 institutions chosen to lead the way on this unique initiative, which is expected to fully ramp up in July 2023 when Pell Grant reinstatement occurs.
“Access to high-quality postsecondary education is essential to incarcerated individuals, but for far too long people in prison were left out,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new pathways out of default are critical steps for incarcerated individuals to be able to access educational opportunities that will provide second chances to build a future.”
So far, incarcerated students have managed to secure more than 7,000 credentials according to the Vera Institute of Justice, which notes that nearly half of all individuals who participate in higher ed programs are less likely to return to prison than those who don’t participate. More than 22,000 students have taken part in some form of programming during the past four years, as they and national leaders hope to end a vicious cycle of mass incarceration in the U.S. As recently as 2014, the number of individuals in U.S. prisons topped 1.5 million. By 2020, that number had dropped to 1.18 million.
The new group of 73 includes two dozen from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions that hope to continue that downward trend and get students closer to being acclimated into society. Nearly all of them are two-year or four-year public institutions, which will be able to begin the Pell Grant process this July by collaborating with federal and state penal institutions to get students enrolled in both training and academic programs.
In order to allow more students into the program, the Biden Administration is waiving previous defaults that prevented incarcerated individuals from participating. They will also be able to consolidate loans in the future, which they weren’t allowed to do previously. Moreover, the increase in Pell opportunities will allow the Department of Education and institutions to see how well the experiment is working across a much broader range geographically.
Not only do incarcerated individuals benefit from the Second Chance programs but, according to the RAND Corporation, every dollar that is poured into the Second Chance initiative equates to $4-5 saved on the cost of keeping individuals in prison. The Department of Education notes that the program also helps boost employment and benefits communities in the long run. Blacks and Latinos have been among the populations most likely to end up in prison, along with Native Americans and refugees, and the goal is to help end that pattern.
This is the newest group of colleges and universities that’s been chosen to participate:
- Alabama: Oakwood University, Talladega College
- Arizona: Pima Community College
- Arkansas: Philander Smith College, Southeast Arkansas College
- California: San Diego State University, San Francisco State University
- Colorado: Pueblo Community College
- Connecticut: Housatonic Community College, University of New Haven/Yale
- Georgia: University of West Georgia
- Hawaii: Hawaii Community College, Windward Community College
- Idaho: University of Idaho
- Illinois: Augustana College, Lewis University
- Indiana: Indiana Institute of Technology, Indiana Wesleyan University
- Iowa: Des Moines Area Community College, Iowa Western Community College, Lewis-Clark State College
- Kansas: Cowley College
- Kentucky: Simmons College of Kentucky
- Louisiana: Central Louisiana Technical Community College
- Massachusetts: Adams State University, Northeastern University,
- Michigan: Alpena Community College, Eastern Michigan University
- Minnesota: Dakota County Technical College, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis Community and Technical College Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI), North Hennepin Community College
- Mississippi: Mississippi Valley State University
- Missouri: Central Methodist University, Rockhurst University
- Montana: Dawson Community College, Great Falls College, Helena College, Montana State University–Billings
- Nevada: Great Basin College
- New Hampshire: New Hampshire Technology Institute, White Mountains Community College
- New Jersey: Hudson County Community College, Pillar College
- New Mexico: University of New Mexico
- New York: Herkimer County Community College, Medaille College, SUNY Corning Community College, SUNY Empire State College, SUNY Jamestown Community College
- North Carolina: Campbell University, Robeson Community College, Shaw University
- Ohio: Kent State University, North Central State College, Sinclair Community College
- Pennsylvania: Butler County Community College, Delaware County Community College, Lincoln University, University of Scranton
- Puerto Rico: Caribbean University
- Rhode Island: Roger Williams University
- South Carolina: Benedict College, Denmark Technical College, Southern Wesleyan University, Voorhees College
- South Dakota: Western Dakota Technical College
- Tennessee: Austin Peay State University
- Texas: Central Texas College
- West Virginia: Appalachian Bible College
- Wisconsin: Moraine Park Technical College
- Wyoming: University of Wyoming