Pell for Prisoners Announcement Coming

July 28, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education is moving closer to an official announcement of an experiment to allow some prisoners to receive Pell Grants. On Monday Arne Duncan, the education secretary, came close to dropping the details for an experimental sites project, which would grant a limited waiver to the federal rules that prevent prisoners in state and federal prisons from receiving Pell Grants. As Inside Higher Ed reported in May, prison education programs at a handful of colleges might be eligible to participate in the experiment.

Duncan said the feds are working on an experimental sites program that would open up Pell eligibility to "incarcerated adults seeking an independent, productive life after they get out of jail," according to a transcript of the major policy speech Duncan gave at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. When asked during a phone call with reporters for more details, Duncan said, "Stay tuned." He is scheduled to appear at a Maryland prison on Friday with Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney general. The event will include a visit to Goucher College's prison education program, and a "major announcement" is planned.

The U.S. Congress banned the use of Pell Grants by prisoners in 1994. Congressional Democrats have called for the ban to be dropped. If the experimental access is successful, it could bolster the case for a full restoration. But opposition appears likely among Republicans.

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