Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called for making the Second Chance Pell experiment permanent Tuesday in remarks at a commencement ceremony for Tulsa Community College's prison education program.
The Obama administration launched the Second Chance program in 2015 to award Pell grants to incarcerated students through a limited number of institutions. The department's experimental sites authority allowed it to bypass a quarter-century ban on federal aid to students behind bars.
The Trump administration, which has sought to make criminal justice a signature issue, has embraced the Second Chance program and in February renewed the program for another year. DeVos told students at the commencement Tuesday that she and President Trump "have faith in the power of redemption."
"You are all examples of what happens when students can use aid in expanded ways," she said. "You are why we propose the Second Chance Pell experiment or 'pilot' be made permanent."
The Second Chance experiment is expected to reach about 10,000 students through 64 participating colleges in its third year. That's less than half the number of incarcerated students who received Pell Grants before Congress passed the 1994 ban.
Although efforts are underway by criminal justice reformers to repeal the ban on Pell Grants in prisons, DeVos has so far stopped short of endorsing lifting the ban.