ATLANTA, Ga.—An increased number of students will be able to take advantage of the Georgia State University Prison Education Project (GSUPEP), thanks to a federal grant program.
The GSUPEP has been invited to participate in the federal Second-Chance Pell — Pell for Incarcerated Students Experiment. The program is under the U.S. Department of Education’s Experimental Sites Initiative.
The university is one of five postsecondary institutions in Georgia invited to join the grant initiative, which allows incarcerated individuals to receive federal funding to enroll in postsecondary programs offered by local colleges and universities or distance-learning providers.
“We are thrilled to work with the Department of Education on this initiative,” said Dr. Nancy Kropf, dean of Georgia State’s Perimeter College. “Through Second-Chance Pell, GSUPEP will be able to expand educational opportunities to incarcerated students in the state of Georgia, helping to prepare more of them for the workforce upon their return to society and to reduce the rate of recidivism.”
Through Georgia State’s prison education project, Perimeter College and Atlanta Campus faculty teach for-credit and enrichment courses at prison and transitional facilities across Georgia. The students are officially accepted as Perimeter College students and are expected to meet the same course objectives as other Perimeter students. Incarcerated students who successfully complete the course can earn Perimeter College credit and move toward completing an associate degree.
“For GSUPEP students, the Second-Chance Pell Grant will create a more sustainable source of funding for paying for tuition, books and other incidentals,” said Dr. Owen Cantrell, GSUPEP coordinator and Perimeter College assistant professor of English.
GSUPEP began in 2016 through a partnership with Common Good Atlanta at Phillips State Prison in Buford, Ga., with the goal of bringing education to men and women incarcerated in Georgia’s prisons. Since that time, classes have been offered at the U.S. federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Walker State Prison, Hancock State Prison and the Atlanta Transitional Center.
Course offerings include math enrichment, psychology, critical thinking, English composition, creative writing, philosophy and American history.
While in-person teaching has been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, faculty have delivered and picked up students’ completed coursework for the spring semester.
The Department of Education created Second-Chance Pell in 2015 through its Experimental Sites Initiative. The program provides needs-based Pell grants to people in state and federal prisons through partnerships with 130 colleges in 42 states. It is authorized by the Higher Education Act and waives certain federal student aid statutory or regulatory requirements.
Institutions must apply for the program and be selected to participate.
Second-Chance Pell will be available to incarcerated students served by GSUPEP for the 2020-21 academic year.