NAICU Washington Update

Education Department Expanding Second Chance Pell

May 28, 2019

Title IV eligible institutions have been invited to participate in an expansion of the Second Chance Pell program, which targets incarcerated individuals. In the notice inviting applications, the Education Department requested institutions to submit letters of interest by September 17, 2019. Criteria for participation in Second Chance Pell can be found in the original 2015 notice.

Second Chance Pell allows incarcerated individuals, who are Pell Grant eligible, to pursue higher education through institution-based programs in state and federal prisons. To participate, prisoners must be eligible for release to the community, with those likely to be released within five years given priority. Institutions must provide academic, credit bearing courses leading to a certificate or degree in a high-demand field in which the students can obtain employment despite a criminal conviction. Institutions partner with prison education programs to provide the education, and must make the education available to the student after release if the program has not been completed.  Institutions must also demonstrate high compliance in administering Title IV aid on campus to avoid potential fraud.

The program is being run through the Experimental Sites Initiative, which allows the Education Department to test innovative methods for distributing federal student aid. The first version of the Second Chance Pell experiment was issued by the Obama Administration in August 2015.  The Trump Administration continues to support the experiment with this new notice for letters of interest.

Congressional education committees also are interested in the response to the program expansion by institutions, as both chambers are considering repealing the ban on Pell Grants for prisoners in the Higher Education Act reauthorization.  The ban has been in place since 1994.

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