Washington, D.C. – On July 31, 2020, the House of Representatives voted to restore Pell Grant eligibility to thousands of individuals in federal and state prisons, as part of a minibus appropriations bill, H.R. 7617. The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) applauds this key milestone and urges the Senate to prioritize this policy change and advance educational opportunities for students in prison. IHEP Vice President of Applied Research, Julie Ajinkya, Ph.D. released the following statement:
“We thank the House of Representatives for taking a critical step to restore Pell Grant eligibility for students who are incarcerated.
“Prison-based higher education programs can be transformative and have been shown to deliver strong outcomes for students, families, facilities, and communities, including increased rates of employment, civic engagement, continued postsecondary attainment, and successful reentry. Moreover, these programs hold the unique potential to close racial and income-based gaps in educational attainment, disrupt the cycle of racial disparities in our criminal justice system, and create a stronger and more equitable society.
“In 1994, Congress enacted a ban that prohibited students in federal and state prisons from accessing federal financial aid. Almost overnight, we saw a drastic reduction in the number of higher education programs operating in prison, resulting in an enormous loss of opportunity for incarcerated individuals and loss of potential for our communities for more than 25 years.
“It is past time for the federal government to overturn the 1994 ban and restore Pell Grant funding for students who are incarcerated. We thank the House of Representatives for working to remove this fundamental barrier to opportunity, and we urge the Senate to support and advance this policy change.”