2020 Trinidad State News

Trinidad State to offer financial aid to Trinidad Correctional Facility inmates

Trinidad Campus / April 29, 2020

The U.S. Department of Education has expanded the number of colleges that can offer federal PELL Grants to students in prison. Sixty seven colleges were recently added to the list, including Trinidad State. There are now 130 colleges in 42 states and the District of Columbia authorized to offer PELL Grants to prisoners.

Coronavirus photo "I've had the pleasure of visiting several Second Chance Pell institutions and have seen firsthand the transformative impact this experiment has on the lives of individuals who are incarcerated," said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. "By expanding this experiment, we are providing a meaningful opportunity for more students to set themselves up for future success in the workforce. The stories I've heard from students and institutions engaged in the experiment are very encouraging, and we look forward to seeing how this expansion will help even more students achieve a better future."

Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree. In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a post baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Federal Pell Grant.

“We are thankful to have been chosen to be a part of this program,” said Trinidad State President Dr. Rhonda M. Epper. “We have long believed in educating inmates in the hope of giving prisoners the skills and confidence they need to lead productive lives once they are released. The Trinidad Correctional Facility has been a great partner and through this program we hope for even better things in the future.”

College classes at the prison was made possible by a law passed in Colorado in 2012. It allowed the Department of Corrections to expand educational offerings to take advantage of expertise available at area colleges. The Corrections Department has offered educational programs behind prison walls for decades. At the Trinidad Correctional Facility that has included training for Customer Service, Computer Information Systems and an Entrepreneur Certificate. All college classes at the Trinidad Correctional Facility are currently on hold because of coronavirus concerns.

The Second Chance Pell Experiment, created in 2015, allows incarcerated individuals to receive Federal funding to enroll in postsecondary programs offered by local colleges and universities or distance learning providers. In the first two years of the experiment, institutions were awarded approximately $36.2 million in Federal Pell Grants. According to Federal Student Aid records, nearly 5,000 incarcerated students received Federal Pell Grants in the 2016–17 award year, and 6,750 incarcerated students received Federal Pell Grants in the 2017–2018 award years. And according to a recent study by the Vera Institute of Justice, more than 4,000 credentials—including postsecondary certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees—have been awarded to Second Chance Pell students over the past three years.

According to a study by the Rand Corporation, individuals who participate in correctional education programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison than those who do not.

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