Thousands more prisoners behind bars will soon be getting their college degrees paid for by the government through the federal Pell Grant program.
The program is set to expand next month and offer 30,000 more students in prison roughly $130 million in financial aid per year, according to The Associated Press.
The new rules governing this expansion overturn a ban on Pell Grants for prisoners that has been in place since the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 barred prisoners from receiving those grants, according to the outlet. But Congress voted to end the ban in 2020.
The expansion follows the Education Department’s announcement in April of a new rule that means that education for incarcerated students won’t be disrupted when the new regulations take effect this summer.
The Biden administration has been supportive of offering more Pell Grants to those in prison over the past couple of years, though then-Senator Joe Biden was a strong supporter of the 1994 bill that barred prisoners from receiving them.
“Access to high-quality postsecondary education is essential to incarcerated individuals, but for far too long, people in prison were left out,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a 2022 press release.
“The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new pathways out of default are critical steps for incarcerated individuals to be able to access educational opportunities that will provide second chances to build a future,” he continued.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) had 200 students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs this year and partnered with eight universities across the state.
CDCR press secretary Terri Hardy told the AP that the goal is to transform prisoners’ lives through education.