Beginning in July of this year, incarcerated people who want to take college courses but haven’t had the money to pay for them will have new financing opportunities. Federal Pell Grants, which provide financial aid to low-income students, are being expanded within participating prison systems.
These grants were eliminated for use by incarcerated people nearly 30 years ago. In recent years, they’ve gradually been reintroduced. This latest change is expected to provide new opportunities to get college credit and even earn a degree. The maximum annual grant, which is currently about $7,400 per year is set to increase by $500 this year.
Obtaining an education while incarcerated can raise the chances of getting a job following release and therefore reduce recidivism rates. Of course, not all prison education programs are the same, and most state and federal prisons throughout the country don’t have them. Some states place more emphasis on them than others.
Washington already participates in the Second Chance Pell Experiment
Washington is among the very few states that are part of the Second Chance Pell Experiment, which began offering grants to incarcerated students back in 2015. Currently, three sites participate in that program in our state:
- Cedar Creek Corrections Center (through Centralia College)
- Washington Corrections Center (through Centralia College)
- Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (through Walla Walla Community College)
According to the Department of Corrections (DOC), all of its facilities have adult basic education programs. It’s also possible to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Limited access, therefore, is one issue for many people. Competition for grants is also high. For some incarcerated people, getting the information they need to apply can also be a barrier. If you or a loved one is having difficulty getting information on prison education programs, Pell Grants or how to transfer credits earned in prison to a college to continue your pursuit of a degree after release, it can help to have legal guidance and support.