Skip to main content

INFOGRAPHIC: A Second Chance at Education

100-PO034 (R 8/2018)


(Rachel Friederich , DOC Communications)

Text Version

Enacted in 2015, the Second Chance Pell Grant Pilot lifts the ban from inmates using Federal Pell Grants to pay for college through selected colleges and universities.

The History of Pell in Prisons Timeline
  • 1965: Congress enacts Title IV of the Higher Education Act, allowing all prisoners to use federal Pell Grants to pay for college classes.
  • 1982: 350 College-in-prison programs and 27,000 prison inmates enroll in classes.
  • Early 1990s: Number of college-in-prison programs peaks at 772 in 1,287 correctional facilities.
  • 1992: Amendment of Higher Education Act prohibits prisoners serving life, life without parole or death sentences from using Pell Grants.
  • 1994: Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act bans all prisoners from receiving Pell aid.
  • 1997: Number of college-in-prison programs drops to 8.
  • 2015: Obama administration announces Second Chance Pell Pilot, which allows inmates at selected federal and state prisons to receive federal Pell Grants.
Pell Math

Before the Violent Crime Control Act banning prisoners from using Pell Grants, the Federal Government spent:

  • $56 million in Pell aid, split among 23,000 state and federal inmates
  • $9.3 billion in Pell aid for 4 million non-incarcerated students
  • Less than one percent of the total amount of federal Pell funding was spent on inmates

Note: the numbers reflect data collected for Pell awards in 1993, the year prior to the Violent Crime Control Act taking effect


    161 Correctional facilities

    67 Colleges and universities

    11,565 Eligible incarcerated students

Note: Data collected reflects 2016-2017 award year

  1. The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program: A Historical Overview, published September 2017 by the American Enterprise Institute
  2. U. S. Department of Education’s Institutions Selected for Participation in the Second Chance Pell Experiment in the 2016-2017 Award YearAdobe PDF document title