Tribal College Selected for Department of Education Prison Program

Volume 28, No. 2 - Winter 2016
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fond-du-lac-signThe U.S. Department of Education recently announced that Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC) was selected to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program. Featuring a renewed partnership between FDLTCC and the Minnesota Correctional Facility- Shakopee, the college’s application was selected as one of only three Second Chance Pell pilot program sites in Minnesota. The Second Chance Pell program allows incarcerated individuals access to Pell grants for college courses delivered online and in person. The college will serve an estimated 45 students each year who are incarcerated at the prison in Shakopee.

Across the United States, selected colleges and universities will partner with 141 federal and state penal institutions to enroll approximately 12,000 incarcerated students in educational programs. Through the pilot program, colleges may provide federal Pell grants to qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in college coursework.

“This project partnership and pilot program selection takes us back to one of the important points of our college’s history and unique purposes which is to provide opportunities to people who may need a second chance,” says FDLTCC president Larry Anderson. “While many of our students have a clear path to a college education and a satisfying career, for others that path is not so straight and comes with obstacles along the way. Through this program and partnership, we get to help more students who need that second chance, and that is something we have proven to be good at doing.”

The Second Chance Pell is an experiment initiated last year to test whether participation in high-quality education programs increases after expanding access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals. The pilot program allows eligible Americans in prison to receive Pell grants and pursue postsecondary education, with the goal of helping them get jobs when they are released.

The site selection announcement builds on the current federal administration’s commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity. The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with approximately 2.2 million people in American prisons and jails. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are released annually from these facilities.

A 2013 study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43% less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. The study also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

“Access to high-quality education is vital to ensuring that justice-involved individuals have an opportunity to reclaim their lives and restore their futures,” says Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Through this partnership with the Department of Education and institutions of higher learning around the country, this program will help give deserving incarcerated individuals the skills to live lives of purpose and contribute to society upon their release.”

Through partnerships with the correctional institutions, community-based organizations, local non-profits, and foundations, the selected postsecondary institutions will enable, prepare, and support incarcerated students in re-entering society as productive and engaged citizens. Experimental programs such as the Second Chance Pell allow the Department of Education to test innovative practices in the delivery of Pell grant dollars and use the resulting evidence to inform improvements in federal student aid policies. Under the authority of the Higher Education Act, the Secretary of Education will waive existing financial aid rules that prohibit otherwise eligible students who are incarcerated from accessing Pell grants.

“The evidence is clear. Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration,” says U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “I applaud the institutions that have partnered to develop high-quality programs that will equip these students with valuable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them to become active and engaged citizens.”