Auburn University selected to offer postsecondary education courses in state prisons

Published: July 01, 2016
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Auburn University has been selected to participate in a new U.S. Department of Education program that will use education to help prisoners reenter society.

Through the new Second Chance Pell pilot program, Auburn and 66 other colleges and universities across the country will offer postsecondary educational programs to incarcerated individuals by providing them access to financial aid.

Prisoners who otherwise meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release, particularly within the next five years, will now have access to Pell Grants to pursue postsecondary education and training. By increasing access to high-quality educational opportunities, the goal is to help these individuals successfully transition out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce.

When the Higher Education Act was amended by Congress in 1994, it eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for students in federal and state penal institutions. The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with more than 1.5 million prisoners.

“The evidence is clear. Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “I applaud the institutions that have partnered to develop high-quality programs that will equip these students with invaluable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them to become active and engaged citizens.”

The vast majority of the schools selected for the pilot program are public two-year and public four-year institutions that will offer classroom-based instruction on-site at the corrections facilities. Others will offer online education, or a hybrid of classroom and online instruction.

Auburn has been working with the Alabama Department of Corrections since 2002 when the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project was founded. The project began with a focus on arts and humanities, but has expanded over the years to include continuing education courses in human development and family studies as well as STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in 10 of Alabama’s prisons.

Auburn was recently a founding signatory of the Fair Chance Education Pledge, a commitment to making higher education accessible to those impacted by the criminal justice system. The university is also a leader in the Southeast in addressing access and equality in higher education.

“I am proud that Auburn has been selected to participate in this historic initiative and am confident that our campus will play a vital role in creating unprecedented access to higher education among incarcerated students,” said Timothy Boosinger, Auburn’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The Second Chance Pell pilot program advances Auburn’s land-grant mission of providing higher education opportunities to all of Alabama’s citizens. Access to education is the first step in giving these students a better chance of successfully reentering society.”

Auburn will begin its Second Chance Pell classes in 2017.