How Would a 5-Year Restriction on Pell Eligibility Impact Incarcerated Adults if the Pell Ban is Lifted?

Policy Paper
Jan. 14, 2020

Currently, an option of Pell Grant eligibility for the Second Chance Pell (SCP) experiment is priority given to students who will be released within 5 years of enrollment in the college program. Using the 2014 U.S. PIAAC Prison Survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), this analysis evaluates the demographics of adults in prison who would be impacted by a 5-year stipulation and the validity of a 5-year threshold on incarcerated adults’ enrollment, completion, and interest patterns in higher education.

We find that a 5- year priority of Pell Grants for those with fewer than five years, would inevitably exclude individuals with more than five years from accessing higher education – exacerbating inequities for people of color. Furthermore, the analysis provides no evidence to suggest those closer to release are more likely to be interested in, enroll in, or complete correctional postsecondary programs.

To read the full report, click here.


New America would like to thank Lumina Foundation as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its generous support of our work. The views expressed in this report are those of its author and do not necessarily represent the views of the foundations, their officers, or their employees.
The author would also like to thank the correctional facilities that welcomed her for observation, formerly and currently incarcerated students, instructors, federal and state correctional administrators, and program facilitators who committed their time and shared their insights.

Related Topics
Federal Education Legislation HEA Federal Student Aid Pell Grants Adult Education Higher Education Funding and Financial Aid Higher Education Access and Affordability Federal Education Legislation