Everything You Need to Know About Second Chance Pell Grant

The Obama-Biden-initiated Second Chance Pell Grant awards the Federal Pell Grant, instituted by the Department of Education, to incarcerated individuals.

Recently, the Second Chance Pell Experiment jumped back into the spotlight, with the Biden administration announcing an expansion of the program, enabling the Second Chance Pell Grant to reach more deserving folks. What are the Second Chance Pell Experiment and Second Chance Pell Grant, though?

The Second Chance Pell Experiment was started in 2015 by the United States Department of Education, under the country’s 44th President—Barack Obama.

The program was designed to expand the Department of Education’s Federal Pell Grant’s reach—earlier reserved for undergraduate students in financial need—to incarcerated individuals as a way to encourage postsecondary education and college participation.

If you’d like to know more, here’s everything you need to know about the Second Chance Pell Grant.

What Is the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative?

The Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative is a program initiated by the Department of Education, which provides incarcerated individuals with access to Pell Grants. These grants are used to fund postsecondary education and training for those who are currently in prison or have been recently released.

The Second Chance Pell Experiment began in 2015, and it has since expanded to include more than 100 institutions across the country. The experiment will run until 2023, when the Department of Education will assess its success and make a decision on whether or not to expand the program nationwide.

The benefits of this initiative are that it gives incarcerated individuals a second chance by allowing them to use their time in prison to gain valuable educational experience that will help them become successful members of society after their release. This initiative also helps reduce recidivism rates by providing inmates with the resources they need to find employment upon their release.

How Does the Second Chance Pell Grant Work?

The Second Chance Pell Grant works through select universities and colleges across 42 states and the District of Colombia that allow and provide programs to incarcerated individuals.

A total of 130 schools are currently participating in the program, blossoming from a mere 67 in 2016. The program also aims to include all 50 states by the end of 2023.

The program aims to encourage education among incarcerated folks by letting them re-enter the world of academia. It also increases the chances of successfully reentering society upon release from prison, paving the path to better employment opportunities and lowering the odds of re-offending (studies show that the chances of re-offending drop by 43% upon participating in educational programs).

Why Was the Second Chance Pell Grant Instituted?

The Second Chance Pell Grant undoes the 1994 law that kept incarcerated individuals from accessing the Pell Grant. As per the law, no federal funding of any type would be made available to such individuals for higher education.

The Second Chance Pell Grant is more inclusive and fair, allowing incarcerated individuals the opportunity to pursue their education.

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However, the Pell Grant is currently only available to eligible individuals incarcerated in municipal, local, county correctional, or juvenile justice facilities. Those incarcerated in state or federal prison, or jail, may be ineligible for the grant.

How To Apply For Second Chance Pell Grant?

The process for applying for a Second Chance Pell Grant involves a few key steps. First, you will need to check your eligibility for the program. The Second Chance Pell Grant is only available to certain individuals who have been incarcerated in a federal or state institution, and who plan to attend a participating institution of higher education.

Once you have determined that you are eligible, you will need to find a participating institution that you would like to attend. You can find a list of participating institutions on the Department of Education’s website.

Next, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This form is used to determine your financial need and is required for all federal student aid programs, including the Second Chance Pell Grant.

After you have completed the FAFSA form, you will need to submit it to the participating institution you have chosen. The institution will then review your application and determine your eligibility for the grant.

If you are deemed eligible, you will receive the grant funds and can use them to pay for your education expenses such as tuition, books, and other related costs.

It’s important to note that the grant is only available for a limited time and it’s a pilot program, and not all institutions may participate. Also, it’s a competitive grant, and not everyone who applies may receive it.

It’s also worth mentioning that the grant can be used for certain types of education, such as vocational education, associate’s degree programs, or certificate programs.

In summary, the process for applying for a Second Chance Pell Grant involves checking your eligibility, finding a participating institution, completing the FAFSA form, submitting it to the institution, and waiting for the institution to determine your eligibility and disburse the grant funds if you are deemed eligible.

Which Institutions Are a Part of the Second Chance Pell Grant?

Only certain schools are invited by the Department of Education to participate in the Second Chance Pell Grant. The invitation may be declined but most academies deem it a prestigious program to be a part of.

The institutions currently involved in the program are a mix of renowned universities, smaller schools, and both two- and four-year institutions. Some of the institutions that are a part of the program:

  • University of Scranton
  • Kent State University
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Central Texas College
  • Hawaii Community College
  • Appalachian Bible College
  • Lincoln University
  • Indiana Institute of Technology
  • SUNY Empire State College
  • San Diego State University

The Bottom Line

The Second Chance Pell Grant/Experiment is providing second chances to many people in need and opening many more doors of opportunities for such folks outside correctional facilities. The initiative is quite noble and is only expanding to be more inclusive with each passing administration.


  • Hussain Shoaib

    Hussain Shoaib is an author and digital marketer with expertise in financial aid and education. He has extensive knowledge of the Pell grant and FAFSA, and has published numerous articles on these topics.

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