Scholarship News

Pell Grants for Prisoners? Obama Says Yes


January 28, 2016
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
Photo credit AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Photo credit AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

According to President Obama, the Pell Grant Program should be extended to include convicted felons currently in our prison systems so that they may continue their education from behind bars. The US is a "nation of second chances," according to Arne Duncan, the current Secretary of Education, and should offer the incarcerated the option of an at least partially funded post-secondary education. Additionally, the Obama Administration hopes to extend the program through the summer so that students can graduate more quickly, while also providing incentive for students who take a minimum of 15 credits per semester/trimester.

Currently, those incarcerated at a federal or state penal institution are not permitted to receive a Pell grant - Obama's "Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals" would change that. Additionally, the Department of Education announced two more proposals to the current Pell Grant program which would increase the $29 billion program by $2 billion in the upcoming fiscal year. The proposal will be part of President Obama's budget proposal next month. The "Pell for Accelerated Completion" program allows students with financial need to take summer courses using Pell grant money, unlike the current program, which only covers two academic semesters.

The second proposal, the "On Track Pell Bonus," rewards students who take minimum of 15 credits per semester with $300. Roughly 2.3 million students would benefit from the bonus program. The goal of these two proposals is two-fold: to help students graduate earlier and to provide them with more financial assistance through the Pell Grant. Almost 8.3 million students were awarded the Pell Grant in the 2015 fiscal year, with approximately $28.7 billion in financial aid. According to the Department of Education's budget report, the maximum Pell grant for 2015-2016 was $5,775 but will be reduced to $4,860 next year.

According to the Department of Education, these changes would benefit almost 700,000 students with an additional $1,900 per student (currently, the average amount received by qualifying students is $3,600). Research also shows that 1.5 million high school graduates did not complete a FAFSA in 2014, despite their eligibility, resulting in just under $3B in unclaimed funds. Since today marks National Student Debt day, a group of young activists named the Young Invisibles will convene at the University of the District of Colombia Community College to learn more about the current student debt crisis and find out how they can influence higher education policy. Members of Congress will be present, including keynote speaker, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Do you think Pell grants should be offered to incarcerated individuals? Would you take more summer courses if the Pell were to be extended? Start a discussion below.

Credit attributed to Jennifer C. Kerr, Associated Press reporter covering education from Washington, D.C.

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Stephanie M.  on  2/10/2016 11:32:43 AM commented:

Yes I feel pell should be extended through the summer in order for students to graduate earlier...

Reply to Fennette H.  on  2/7/2016 2:29:01 PM commented:

Fennette H... Really!! It's best that they do offer them to offer something to the prisoners while they are in the correctional facilities for years. If they make it so they can learn a skill why the are using government money any. When the are released back into the world they will have a skill to survive and earn a decent living. Instead of having no skills and committing an other crime and going right back into the system Using yours and my taxes $ to take care of them again. This seem to be a no brainer (give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish he will eat for a life time) Or is the reason you don't this its a good idea is it because the idea came from President Obama? If you did know that grant is available to all the qualify.

Fennette H..  on  2/5/2016 5:23:15 AM commented:

I do not think prisoners should get a Pell Grant. They are in prison to be punished, not rewarded. I applied for Aid and was denied based on income. If there's enough money out there to start offering it to prisoners, raise the ceiling on people like me so that we have a chance of getting help for our children's education.

Wicked B  on  2/4/2016 3:22:58 AM commented:

Wow... I was pretty shocked to see this article. As a counselor myself I am thinking... "Yes, good idea to educate those who are behind bars, (especially those who are in for minor criminal charges) but.....who is going to hire a person who has been in jail?" In reality not many companies are and that would be a waste of money... Pell Grant budget needs to be increased... in today's day and age AND the cost of attendance RISING... A $5775 (at a 0 EFC) grant award is not enough for a full time student... Student and parents... write you congress man/woman that this needs to change. You have the ability to make these changes. Let you voices be heard....

Daveg  on  2/3/2016 11:06:24 PM commented:

I look at it from a different point of view, not all prisoner are guilty of a crime,but are still being charged,at some point the prisoner will get out of jail,and must have degree in something so he/she can make living.i don't think a lot of them will take advantage of the opportunity.

Nadene M.  on  2/3/2016 8:47:47 PM commented:

How about a program for people who are already doing the right thing, have always done the right thing, and work full-time and go to school but exceed the FASFA limits for getting financial aid? I do not think our tax dollars should pay anything for post secondary schooling for inmates AT ALL! President Obama should help me, give me a chance, or at the very least give my pre-college son a chance to go to school without the both of us incurring an enormous amount of debt. No lets help inmates and refugees and visiting immigrants to go to school on the backs of people like me, who WORK for a living.

Nancy B  on  2/3/2016 4:29:22 PM commented:

Don't even get me started on this... ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? My son who has studied his butt off for 4 years through high school (4.5 GPA) does not qualify for a Pell Grant because I "make too much money". I make less than $40,000. He will have to take out numerous loans to pay for college this fall. Why does the Government insist on handing out money to those who cause harm to others?? Inmates do not deserve Pell Grants.

Shirley F.  on  2/3/2016 7:55:03 AM commented:

Prison is punishment for crimes. Why is our President so willing to increase the national debt for those who do not care about the rest of society? These offenders need to prove themselves worthy by making positive life changes when they are released. Even if those changes are made, if they committed a felony, they should not receive any form of government grant.

Cyndi V  on  2/3/2016 7:30:13 AM commented:

Pell grants should not be available to convicted felons, period.

Patrick  on  2/2/2016 7:19:40 PM commented:

When the inmate is released into society, he/she will be more able to contribute to society. With the degree the inmate will possess the skills to obtain higher paying job, lowering the recind rate. There are a lot of positive aspects to educating our incarcerated. The average inmate possess a very low education. There area few serious inmates that will be able to become great students.

jul  on  2/2/2016 6:58:56 PM commented:

Pell grants should NOT be offered to incarcerated individuals . They do not deserve these privileges . My brother & I both work part time jobs and go to college full time . It is not easy. My mother also is working two jobs helping us. Totally disagree.

Sara R.  on  2/2/2016 5:29:07 PM commented:

No, I do not think incarcerated individuals should gets Pell grants. They should be able to complete their GED.

Teri G.  on  2/2/2016 5:28:45 PM commented:

NO-Pell Grants should not be given to incarcerated individuals. The limit for students requiring FA should be reduced and those grants should be given to students who are already working hard to make something of themselves. Aren't taxpayers already paying for education in prisons? Mr Obama wants to reduce the maximum amount a student can recurve by 1k compared to last year? Is that to fund this new program? People - wake up!

Tina M.  on  2/2/2016 4:22:15 PM commented:

I am a single woman, who pays taxes, and attend college. If I cannot get Pell grants because I work, why would someone who broke the law, whom we are already taking care of any way be able to get one?

Michelle M.  on  1/29/2016 3:22:31 PM commented:

No, Pell Grants should not be offered to incarcerated individuals. They made choices to end up where they are at. If they want a second chance, they should earn it like everyone else. There are many deserving college students with financial need who do not get Pell Grants, what about them? I think our tax dollars can be spent more wisely.

Brittany Sephers  on  1/28/2016 10:47:58 PM commented:

I think pull grants should be given to anybody who mets the requirements or who has a strong point. If the peel grant was to existed yes I would take more summer courses but I won't take on to many because I wouldn't want to over work my self because I would have other grant opportunities to get other grants but that doesn't mean students shouldn't work hard even if that was the case.

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