Poster Paper: Ineligible Anyway: Evidence on the Barriers to Pell Eligibility for Prison Inmates in the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program in Pennsylvania

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jennifer Lafferty1, Sarah Tahamont1, Jordan Hyatt2, Nicolette Bell3 and Michele Hiester3, (1)University of Maryland, (2)Drexel University, (3)Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Since the mid-1990s scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers consistently identify the ban on Pell eligibility for prison inmates as the primary culprit for the decline of post-secondary education programs in prisons nationwide. Thus, federal efforts to reinvigorate college programs in prisons naturally focused on the policy banning prisoners from Pell grant eligibility. After a prohibition of more than two decades, the Second Chance Pell (SCP) pilot program reinstated Pell eligibility for prison inmates in 28 states. The SCP is available at 69 colleges and universities in 28 states and endeavors to reach more than 12,000 students in prison. However, despite the reinstatement of inmate eligibility, many interested inmates are actually ineligible for Pell funding due to additional barriers to eligibility. Among the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) inmates who submitted an application and FAFSA to the SCP, more than one-third were ineligible to participate in the program because of Pell eligibility criteria not directly related to their incarcerated status. The principle reasons for secondary ineligibility were failure to register for selective service and having outstanding student loan debt in default. In this study, we collect and analyze data from PA DOC inmates who are interested in participating in post-secondary education via SCP programs to assess Pell eligibility not just among SCP applicants, but among all interested inmates. We also collect data on which inmates are ineligible because they do not meet either the PA DOC or college application requirements for participation. With these data we are able to evaluate the extent to which policy design limits participation and creates mechanical sampling restrictions for future outcome evaluations.