USDE Opens Third Round of Second Chance Pell Grants (Letter of Interest Due by October 28, 2021)

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) would like to draw your attention to the below announcement from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) about the Second Chance Pell Grant program. MSCHE already has several institutions experienced with providing education in prisons, and this opportunity may be of interest to others. MSCHE has also connected with the national non-profit Vera Institute of Justice, which can serve as a resource for institutions. Vera currently provides technical assistance (TA) to the network of 130 colleges and corrections agencies in 42 states and DC participating in the USDE’s Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative.

U.S. Department of Education Announces It Will Expand the Second Chance Pell Experiment for the 2022-2023 Award Year

[On July 30, 2021], the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced it will expand the Second Chance Pell experiment for the 2022-2023 award year. The Second Chance Pell experiment has provided education opportunities for thousands of justice-involved individuals who have previously been unable to access federal need-based financial aid. The expansion will allow up to 200 colleges and universities to offer their prison education programs with support from the Pell Grant program, up from the 131 currently participating. To date, students have earned over 7,000 credentials, building new skills and improving their odds of success. Expansion of the experiment is part of the Department’s efforts to expand access and equity in higher education. Providing education in prisons is proven to reduce recidivism rates and is associated with higher employment rates, which will improve public safety and allow individuals to return home to their communities and contribute to society.

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Resource: There are two resources available for MSCHE members who may be interested in applying for this opportunity:

  • USDE: If you have any questions about the application process or the Second Chance Pell experiment, please send an email to
  • Vera Institute of Justice: As TA’s for the current network of 130 colleges and corrections

agencies, Vera is also available to answer questions and/or provide resources about higher education in prison programming and being a Second Chance Pell site. Please contact Belinda Wheeler, Senior Program Associate, at

Save the Date: MSCHE and the Vera Institute of Justice will host a concurrent session at the virtual 2021 MSCHE Annual Conference (December 14-15, 2021). More details will be released with registration in early September.