Holy Cross College in South Bend is one of 67 higher education institutions across the country to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Program. The program uses federal Pell grant money to pay for prisoners to take degree-seeking programs behind bars.
The pilot program allows universities to partner with prisons to provide degree programs – an opportunity that’s been missing from most Indiana prisons since 2012.
The college will work with Westville Correctional Facility and Indiana Women’s Prison, both state prisons. It’s already offered associates and bachelor’s degrees for a small number of prisoners at Westville.
Holy Cross applied to participate in the federal program so it could use the Pell grant money to expand on its existing courses.
“That’s a very important part of maturity, I guess you would say, for a program offering education within prison,” said Brother Jesus Alonso, vice president for strategic initiatives at Holy Cross. “It signifies a lot for stability, commitment on behalf of the students and commitment on behalf of the institution to continue delivering what we offer in that type of setting.”
The program offers approximately $30 million in Pell grants to universities in 27 states, and expects to help around 12,000 inmates work toward a post-secondary degree.
Alonso says the assistance from the federal government is necessary to continue education programs in prison.
“It takes about $10,000 to run one course,” he said. “What that means is – providing supplies and books for students and also providing salary for our faculty.”
The Second Chance Pell Program was initiated by the Obama administration as a way to reduce recidivism lower the incarceration rate.