Department of Education: Pell Grant pilot program introduced for prisoners

Congress determined that incarcerated individuals were not eligible to receive educational Pell Grants, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a new pilot program where, on a limited basis, federal and state inmates can become qualified for educational funding — and classes — while behind bars. This program is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to provide a fairer chance at rehabilitation and employment for those in the penal system. A 2013 study showed that inmates who participate in educational programs while in prison are 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years. Approximately seven hundred thousand inmates are released every year. “America is a nation of second chances,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are.” “It can also be a cost-saver to taxpayers,” he added. Pell Grants are less than $6,000 per year, while the average cost to institutionalize inmates can be upwards of $35,000 per year, per person. In order for this program to succeed, the Department of Education is seeking colleges and universities who may want to participate and provide classes inside institutions. The beneficiaries of the Pell Grants will be those who are qualified under Title IV and are slated to be released within a five-year timeframe. (The pilot program is expected to run for just five years — for research — while Congress revisits the idea of expanding the program once again.) The Department’s plan is for those soon-to-be-released individuals to have access to secondary education programs in order to have more opportunities and be more competitive in the job market once they are released from prison. Pell Grant funding can only be used for educational purposes, including tuition, books and supplies required by a specific program.]]>

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