RALEIGH — The North Carolina state prison system now has some additional resources to help those incarcerated better their chances of being successful upon their release. Thanks to the expansion of the Second Chance Pell Experiment, two private universities and a community college in the state will offer incarcerated individuals the opportunity to participate in postsecondary educational programs.
On April 26, Campbell University, Shaw University and Robeson Community College in Lumberton were announced as three of 73 additional sites around the country to assist offenders using Pell grant funding. Overall, there are 200 colleges and universities nationwide that participate in the program. Credentials offered by Second Chance Pell colleges range from career and technical certifications to associate and bachelor degrees.
“We have a responsibility to do all we can to help lead those incarcerated on a path to successful reentry in the community,” said Sarah Cobb, Prisons director of Rehabilitative Services. “It has been proven those with postsecondary education are less likely to reoffend and return to prison so it’s certainly great news that the federal government is expanding these opportunities.”
The Second Chance Pell Experiment was first established in 2015 by the Obama Administration to provide Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals, which allows them to participate in postsecondary education programs. The program has since been expanded under the Biden Administration. To date, students have earned more than 7,000 credentials through the initiative, building new skills and improving their odds of success.
“We are excited to learn that Campbell University, Shaw University and Robeson Community College have been chosen to participate in this Second Chance Pell Grant Experiment with the U.S. Department of Education,” said Dr. Julie Jailall, Prisons superintendent of Education Services. “Education leads to better job prospects, and when incarcerated individuals are given hope for a better life outside the prison system, study after study has shown it can break the cycle of criminal behavior, resulting in less repeat offenders and a safer community to live in that we can all enjoy.”
The U.S. Department of Education announced the expansion of the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative (Second Chance Pell) to include a third cohort of new schools. The Vera Institute of Justice has provided technical assistance to the participating colleges and corrections departments since Second Chance Pell’s inception, working to ensure that programs deliver quality higher education in prison and post-release.
“Access to high-quality postsecondary education is essential to incarcerated individuals, but for far too long, people in prison were left out,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new pathways out of default are critical steps for incarcerated individuals to be able to access educational opportunities that will provide second chances to build a future.”
Research has also shown postsecondary education increases graduates’ employment and earning potential — a benefit to the families and communities where the graduates return.
“We know the research shows that access to postsecondary education in prison reduces recidivism and makes corrections facilities safer for people who live and work in prison,” Cobb said.
Second Chance Pell’s success and expansion laid the groundwork for the passage of federal legislation restoring Pell eligibility to people in all U.S. prisons in late 2020. Vera estimates that more than 463,000 people in prison will be eligible for Pell Grants when access is reinstated in July 2023.
“Five years into Second Chance Pell, more than 28,000 people in prison have enrolled in postsecondary education, setting themselves up for greater success on release. Access to college in prison makes our communities stronger and safer,” said Margaret diZerega, Unlocking Potential initiative director at the Vera Institute of Justice.
The two universities and the community college join Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in providing the postsecondary programs to the incarcerated. A-B Tech was the first and only college in North Carolina when it was selected to provide the Second Chance Pell in 2020.