(BOP) - In 1994, Congress removed Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated people. For 22 years, incarcerated people who wanted a college education had to pay for classes with personal funds or Unicor scholarships.
In 2015, the Second Chance Pell experiment was established to provide Pell Grants to incarcerated people in eligible postsecondary programs. In 2016, six BOP institutions were selected to pilot fully funded Second Chance Pell Grant college programs. Since the initial piloted programs in December 2016, the BOP has established additional programs. Currently, the BOP has 14 Second Chance Pell programs with 431 students enrolled. Adults in BOP custody have been able to earn 208 associate degrees, 16 bachelor's degrees, and 13 certificates.
On December 27, 2020, the FAFSA Simplification Act passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, and included the restoration of Pell Grants for students incarcerated in federal or state penal institutions and students who are subject to involuntary commitments.
As of July 1, 2023, all provisions of the FAFSA Simplification Act related to incarcerated students are active. This means that the Pell Grant is now available to all qualified incarcerated people to further pursue post-secondary education for jobs with livable wages. While this process must be initiated and managed by the individual postsecondary school, the BOP eagerly awaits the increase in partnership opportunities.