- The U.S. Department of Education announced its rollout of a 67-school pilot program to offer Pell grants to inmates, a provision ending a 20-year program prohibition against prisoners.
- The Second Chance Pell Grant program is expected to aid more than 12,000 students in 27 states nationwide to earn credit towards a college degree, in an effort to reduce recidivism.
- The program will award more than $30 million in student aid to prisoners set for release in five years or fewer, to aid students in earning associate degrees in labor fields and four-year degrees in business majors.
The Department of Education’s extension of Pell grants to prisoners is on target with the Obama administration's commitment to criminal justice reform and assisting those incarcerated with reentry. But more than that, it dramatically boosts the case for two-year schools as the educational model of the future, another high mark of this administration.
Expanded access to careers in labor and niche professional industries follows the existing model at most community colleges throughout the United States. Of the 67 institutions included in the pilot program, 40 are community colleges and only 15 of those feature newly-established prison-to-degree programs.
If the genuine concern for the federal government was recidivism, then the objective should be to increase options for inmates, including graduate school and broadened degree choices. Those are best facilitated with four-year institutions, and executives should be looking to expand articulation agreements with the community colleges listed on the program in an effort to secure federal, state or private funding to continue the pipeline of success for the incarcerated, or recently-released, college students.