An expansion of federal student aid for the 2023-2024 academic year will cost taxpayers $130 million per year in grants to prisoners for higher education.
According to the AP, the Biden administration’s expansion of the taxpayer-funded federal Pell Grant program, a program for low-income college students, will give 30,000 prisoners a total of $130 million in student financial aid for the upcoming academic year.
According to a Department of Education (DOE) press release, the expansion is part of the Second Chance Pell Experiment from the Biden administration that tests the benefits of providing Pell Grants to prisoners in order to reduce recidivism.
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“First established in 2015 by the Obama-Biden administration, the Second Chance Pell Initiative provides Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals to participate in postsecondary education programs,” according to a White House press release. “This expansion of sites will help the Department to prepare for full expansion of Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated students in July 2023.”
The expansion was announced in April 2022 but does not comes into full effect until July 2023. This marks the third expansion of the experiment, which invited 73 colleges and universities to the program, increasing the number to 200 that can offer programs to prisoners with Pell Grants, according to the DOE press release. Since the experiment was established in 2015 by the Obama administration, 7,000 prisoners have earned credentials.
Pell Grants are traditionally not afforded to prisoners, with the DOE saying on its website, “You are not eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant if you are incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution or are subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a forcible or nonforcible sexual offense.”
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The Biden administration has repeatedly tried to push for action to address the cost of higher education. The Supreme Court is currently evaluating his plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt per person for some borrowers. House Republicans moved to block the plan on Monday but failed to garner enough votes, according to The Hill.
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