Arkansas State University-Newport announced Tuesday that ASUN has been selected as one of 67 colleges and universities across the country to participate in the Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program. The experimental program is designed to test whether participation in high-quality education programs increases after expanding access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals.
The pilot program will allow eligible incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released. The selected institutions will partner with over 100 federal and state penal institutions to enroll approximately 12,000 incarcerated students - likely to be released in five years - in education and training programs. The selected sites all demonstrate strong partnerships between the postsecondary institution and correctional institution(s). These partnerships will help to facilitate high-quality educational programs, strong academic and career support services, and re-entry support. Many state department of corrections indicated strong support for the proposed postsecondary educational programs at both the leadership level and in the coordination of day-to-day operations such as scheduling, staffing, and facilities.
Arkansas State University-Newport has coordinated efforts with the Grimes and McPherson Units, both located in Newport, to provide educational opportunities to incarcerated individuals for approximately 15 years. ASUN’s prison outreach program has been under the direction of Dr. Allen Mooneyhan, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness & Academic Outreach since 2006.
“Dr. Mooneyhan has been deeply involved with our inmate prison program since 2006,” said ASUN Chancellor Dr. Sandra Massey. “ASU-Newport offerings have grown from a couple of courses a year to a full degree. Under his leadership, we have well-trained faculty dedicated to teaching in this environment, a collaborative relationship with the correctional facility staff, an on-site academic advisor and numerous inmates with college credit and a more hopeful future! Receiving this grant will allow us to continue helping individual inmates transform their lives.”
The Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program builds on the Obama Administration’s commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.
I am very encouraged about the opportunity for our incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants,” said Mooneyhan. “ASU-Newport has sought out sources of funding for the program for the past several years, and has struggled to keep the outreach program active. Most of these students do not have the means to pay for continuing their education, and this opportunity will help them to complete courses, gain additional academic experience and even earn credentials and degrees. Ultimately, it may enable these individuals to find work upon release and reduce recidivism in our community and state.”
The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people incarcerated in American prisons and jails. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are released annually from these facilities. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.
“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 become active and engaged citizens.”
The selected colleges and universities demonstrated a focus on supporting successful reentry. Many did this by evaluating the local labor market and providing educational programs that would prepare students with the training and credentials to improve their prospects for employment post-release. Others offer educational programs that result in meaningful degrees that prepare students to continue their postsecondary education. Through partnerships with the correctional institutions, community-based organizations, local non-profits and foundations, the selected postsecondary institutions will enable, prepare, and support incarcerated students in re-entering society as productive and engaged citizens.