Prison inmates will receive Pell grants to take college classes

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Obama Is Reinstating Pell Grants For Prisoners

I n a new effort by the Obama administration, roughly 12,000 inmates at 141 state and federal correctional institutions are expected to be eligible for the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, which will allow them to use a federal Pell grant of up to $5,815 to pursue a degree from approved colleges and universities.

According Education Secretary John B. King Jr., approximately $30 million in Pell grants will be provided to inmates. The funding makes up less than 0.1 percent of the $30 billion Pell grant program, noting the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program won't have any affect funding to Pell grant recipients who are in prisons.

Inmates in state and federal prisons have not had access to Pell grants in 22 years. The 1994 crime bill prohibited inmates from receiving the aide. "No basic grant shall be awarded under this subpart to any individual who is incarcerated in any Federal or State penal institution."

The ban against Pell grants for inmates still stands, but the program will use a provision in the Higher Education Act to start the program.

"Access to high quality education is vital to ensuring that justice-involved individuals have an opportunity to reclaim their lives and restore their futures. This program will help give deserving incarcerated individuals the skills to live lives of purpose and contribute to society upon their release," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement

See photos from a roundtable discussion with inmates and lawmakers about education in prisons:

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan, center, speaks with inmates Alphonso Coates, bottom right, and Kenard Johnson, both participants in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. After a roundtable discussion at the prison, the Education Department announced Friday that it would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, second from left, speaks with inmate Terrell Johnson, a participant in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. Also pictured are inmates Alphonso Coates, second from right, and Kenard Johnson. After a roundtable discussion at the prison, the Education Department announced Friday that it would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch listens as Education Secretary Arne Duncan, front left, speaks at a news conference after joining a discussion with inmates participating in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. Duncan announced that the Education Department would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, second from right, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch listen to inmates participating in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. After a roundtable discussion at the prison, the Education Department announced Friday that it would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Education Secretary Arne Duncan speaks at a news conference after joining a discussion with inmates participating in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. Duncan announced that the Education Department would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. Also pictured is Attorney General Loretta Lynch, at right. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, third from left, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch listen to inmates participating in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. After a roundtable discussion at the prison, the Education Department announced Friday that it would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, left, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks with inmates participating in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. After a roundtable discussion at the prison, the Education Department announced Friday that it would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, at top left in blue, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch listen to inmates participating in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md. After a roundtable discussion at the prison, the Education Department announced Friday that it would conduct a limited pilot program to give prisoners access to the Pell grants, allowing them to take college courses behind bars. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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