Pell Grants for Prisoners: New Bill Restores Hope of Reinstating College Programs

by Christopher Zoukis

It’s been over 20 years since Jon Marc Taylor, Ph.D., a Missouri state prisoner and author of the Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada, published an op-ed in the New York Times urging federal lawmakers not to ban Pell grants for prisoners. In the two decades since his plea the higher education landscape in our nation’s prison system has shifted drastically due to a lack of funding and public support. However, it now appears that might change and Dr. Taylor’s dream may finally come true.

The Restoring Education and Learning Act

On May 21, 2015, U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (MD) introduced the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, H.R. 2521, which would make state and federal prisoners eligible for Pell grants – a form of federal financial aid for post-secondary education programs. Prisoners have been restricted from Pell grant eligibility since 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (VCCLEA) into law.

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