Clarendon College chosen as one of 67 national pilots for Second Chance Pell program
Posted By: Ashlee Estlack - 6/28/2016 8:50:50 AM

Clarendon College is one of 67 colleges and universities selected nationally to participate in the Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell pilot program, which will allow incarcerated Americans to access Pell Grants to pursue post-secondary education.

This Second Chance program launched in July 2015 as an experiment to test whether participation in high-quality education programs increases after expanding access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals. The pilot program will allow eligible incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released.

This is a great opportunity that will allow motivated students to begin or continue their educational goals,” CC President Dr. Robert Riza said. “The recidivism rate for inmates that complete educational credentials is amazing, if they achieve their GED, or college degree, while incarcerated, their odds of returning go down into the single digits. This program allows those inmates a chance to better themselves once released.”

Clarendon College began offering courses again in the prison in 2014 after a prior program ended in 2011 due to action by the state Legislature.  The College currently has about 50 students enrolled at the Jordan Unit in Pampa, Texas, and plans to expand offerings to the T.L. Roach Unit in Childress, Texas, this fall.  With this new experimental Second Chance program, Clarendon College expects to reach 100 Pell-eligible students in 2016-17.

“We are extremely excited to be one of seven institutions in the state to be chosen for this program,” Riza said. “We have been working hard with the units in Pampa and Childress to expand our course offerings and prepare for the Second Chance Pell Program, if it was approved.  This is an initiative of extreme importance for the College.”

This announcement builds on the Obama Administration’s commitment to creating 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 incarcerated in American prisons and jails. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are released annually from these facilities. A Department of Justice-funded 2013 study found that individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than those who did not participate in any correctional education programs.

“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,” said 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 invaluable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them to become active and engaged citizens.”

Experimental sites, such as the Second Chance Pell pilot program, allow the Department to test innovative practices in the delivery of Pell Grant dollars and use the resulting evidence to inform improvements in policies and processes in federal student aid. Under the experimental sites authority of section 487A(b) of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the Secretary will waive existing financial aid rules that prohibit otherwise eligible students who are incarcerated from accessing Pell Grants. A 1994 Congressional change to the HEA eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals in Federal and state penal institutions.

Selected colleges and universities will partner with 141 federal and state penal institutions to enroll roughly 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs. Through the Second Chance Pell pilot program, these institutions may provide Federal Pell Grants to qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in coursework.