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College Programs for Inmates: The Post-Pell Grant Era

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Education Volume: 54 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2003 Pages: 32-39
Jonathan E. Messemer M.A.
Date Published
March 2003
8 pages
This article discusses the impact the ban on Pell grants had regarding inmate college programs.
When the Federal Government prohibited inmates from using Pell grants to pay for college courses, some educators claimed that this could end all college programs in prison. No studies were found that addressed this issue after an extensive review of the literature. This study posed three questions: (1) how many States offer in-house college programs for inmates and which level of degree programs are offered; (2) if in-house college programs are offered to inmates, how are they funded; and (3) what are some of the important social factors that influence the offering of college programs to inmates. A brief survey was mailed to the State Director of Correctional Education in each of the 50 States. There was a 90 percent response rate. There were nine State structural characteristic variables collected, including State population, annual expenditures per inmate, minority rate, and high school graduation rate. Of the 45 States that participated, 25 States still offered in-house college programs for its inmates. The study found that both State and Federal funds for inmate college tuition were equally distributed between the four college degree areas: certificate, Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s. Private organizations, nonprofit foundations, and colleges/universities were more likely to support only the Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree programs. States that were more likely to provide college programs to inmates had more than twice the population and inmate population than those that did not offer such programs. These States spent 5.6 percent more dollars annually per inmate than States that did not offer them. States that did offer college programs to inmates had a slightly higher high school graduation rate and higher rates of people that held a Bachelor’s degree and/or graduate degree than those States that did not. 4 tables, 40 references


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