Answering your Frequently Asked Questions about Second Chance Pell

A student inmate talks with a University of Tulsa professor dressed in their graduation gown.

This April, in recognition of Second Chance Month, we’re answering the most frequently asked questions about Second Chance Pell.

What is Second Chance Pell?

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education created the Second Chance Pell (SCP) Experimental Sites Initiative to provide need-based Pell grants to those in state and federal prisons. This initiative examines the impact expanded access to financial aid has on incarcerated adults’ participation in educational opportunities.


Why is Second Chance Pell important?

According to Pew Research Center, the United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people incarcerated. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.


How many students and institutions are participating in the Second Chance Pell experiment?

According to Federal Student Aid (FSA) data, so far this award year (July 1, 2018- June 30, 2019) there are currently 10,048 students receiving Federal Pell Grant funds from 64 institutions.


What are the results of Second Chance Pell so far?

According to self-reported data from the participating colleges compiled by the Vera Institute of Justice, Second Chance Pell is resulting in the following:

  • Participating colleges offering a combined 82 certificates, 69 AA/AS/AAS degrees, and 24 BA/BS degrees
  • Incarcerated students working toward career and technical-oriented stackable certificates in areas such as:
    • Entrepreneurship at Delta College in Michigan;
    • AS in Business Administration from Connors State College in Oklahoma;
    • BA in communications at California State University, Los Angeles;
    • and more.
  • 578 Certificates, Associates, and Bachelors graduates in prison, 34 graduates post incarceration, and 954 credentials awarded in the past three years

When will the experiment end?

Approval has been received for the Second Chance Pell experiment to continue for the 2019-2020 award year. Past experiments have commonly operated for 3-5 years.


How will the experiment be evaluated?

School-reported student-level data, responses to school surveys, and existing FSA data sources will be used to produce a report of the first two years of the experiment (2016-2017 & 2017-2018). Official outcomes are expected to be published later this year.