Expanding access to Pell
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) in May announced it is
expanding a pilot program that allows eligible inmates to use Pell grants
for a college education. The Second Chance Pell program, launched in
2015, has provided many incarcerated individuals with new educational
opportunities that prepare them for college and workplace success, ED
said. Sixty-seven colleges and universities, including community colleges,
were originally selected to participate in the pilot program. Now, ED will
open it up to more higher education institutions, which will help the
department better assess the program.
Meanwhile, Congress is leaning toward restoring Pell grant access for
certain inmates. The Restoring Education and Learning Act—or REAL
Act—would again allow prisoners to use federal Pell grants to pay for
college courses and workforce training. The bill was introduced by U.S.
Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin
(D-Ill.) to “cut the cycle of recidivism, save taxpayer money, and improve
safety,” according to a release.
In 1994, Congress eliminated incarcerated individuals’ access to Pell
grant assistance. That caused a significant drop in the number of education programs in prisons. The national recidivism rate rose 43.3 percent
within three years.
A Vera Institute of Justice study found that states would save an
average of $7.6 million in incarceration costs each year in which people
in prison had access to Pell grants while incarcerated. Greater access to
education means “formerly incarcerated people would reenter the labor
market with competitive skills and qualifications, leading to higher
rates of employment and increased earnings,” say the study’s authors.
hunger in Virginia
More than a dozen rural Virginia community
colleges will expand food emergency offerings
to students thanks in part to a $100,000 grant
from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Foundation. The grant will help expand 11
existing food pantries on rural campuses and
allow three campuses to open pantries bene-fitting more students and their families.
“Student success is not just a matter of what
occurs inside a classroom,” Glenn DuBois,
chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges,
said. “Being hungry, uncertainty over where
you are sleeping tonight—these are real world
challenges for many of our students, who need
our help. This grant is an important step as
we continue to seek partners and resources to
help students address the social challenges that
threaten college dreams.”
Currently, 32,563 enrolled students and
their families have access to food emergency
programs at the 11 rural colleges. Based on
current enrollment data, this support will
allow another 8,658 families to access food
See a list of colleges benefiting from the
West Virginia in March became the 24th state to establish a statewide
College Promise program. The WV Invests Grant Initiative, a “last-dollar-in”
program, was designed to cover the cost of tuition and fees for certificate
or associate degree programs in specific high-demand fields, such as health
sciences, criminal justice or industrial and trades programs.
To qualify for WV Invests grants, students must register for at least
six credit hours, pay for and pass a drug screening before the start of
each academic term, and must commit to living in West Virginia for at
least two years after graduation and completing at least two hours of
unpaid community service each academic term.
invests in college