LEWISTON, Idaho – Incarcerated individuals will now have greater access to higher education as part of a pilot project administered collaboratively between Lewis-Clark State College and the University of Idaho. The U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Experiment will help these individuals start or continue their educational journeys and earn a credential, certificate or college degree so they can gain employment upon release.
LC State and U of I were two of 73 colleges and universities invited to participate in the third round of the Second Chance Pell Experiment, an initiative first launched in 2015 to expand access to Federal Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals to allow them to participate in postsecondary education programs.
The Pell Grants are available as early as July 1.
“We are eager to pursue this important partnership with the Idaho Department of Corrections,” LC State President Cynthia Pemberton said. “Our commitment to helping residents of the regional correctional facilities – and perhaps others – launch new beginnings for themselves through higher education is fervent. We are already working on the critical next steps that should see us offering for-credit classes in Orofino by next fall.”
Since its inception, individuals have earned more than 7,000 credentials, certificates and degrees through the Second Chance Pell Experiment.
“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.”
The University of Idaho has worked within the prison system to deliver higher education opportunities for several years. The Inside Out Program led by Omi Hodwitz, assistant professor of criminology, is the only one of its kind in the state. LC State has offered non-credit welding classes through its Workforce Training program at Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino consistently since 2009. By adding the tuition funding opportunities, the opportunities to the incarcerated population are that much greater.
“We have an obligation to educate the citizens of our state,” said U of I President Scott Green. “That includes those who are looking for a second chance and wanting to exit our prison system with skills they can put to work – whether that is a four year degree, an associate degree or a specialized certificate. As institutions of higher education in Idaho, we are ready to meet the needs of all our citizens.”
According to research by the RAND nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization, providing education in prison has proven to reduce recidivism rates and is associated with higher employment rates. A 2018 RAND study found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 48 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than incarcerated individuals who did not participate in any correctional education program. RAND estimates that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, $4 to $5 are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.
“We know higher ed translates to improved reentry success,” said Josh Tewalt, director of the Idaho Department of Correction. “We consider the Second Chance Pell Experiment to be a great investment in in public safety.”
For more information on Second Chance Pell Experiment at LC State, contact Andy Hanson, senior vice president/vice president for Student Affairs, at either 208-792-2218 or [email protected]. For more information on the Second Chance Pell Experiment at U of I, contact Sean Quinlan, dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at [email protected] or 208-885-6426.