USDE Expansion of Second Chance Pell Experiment Invites MSCHE Institutions

The United States Department of Education (USDE) announced it will expand the Second Chance Pell Experiment after previously doing so twice since the program launched in 2015. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) has 11 member institutions invited to participate in the third and final round of the Experimental Site Initiative in the most recent announcement on April 26, 2022.

Included MSCHE institutions

  • Butler County Community College
  • Caribbean University
  • Delaware County Community College
  • Herkimer County Community College
  • Hudson County Community College
  • Medaille College
  • Pillar College
  • SUNY Corning Community College
  • SUNY Empire State College
  • SUNY Jamestown Community College
  • University of Scranton

The Second Chance Pell Experiment gives incarcerated individuals the opportunity to pursue higher education while still incarcerated. According to USDE, incarcerated individuals who have previously defaulted on their student loans will be moved to a repayment status in good standing and be offered a new program to consolidate their loans and avoid future default. Incarcerated individuals had previously been barred from Pell Grants, but in 2015, the Second Chance Pell Experiment made it possible for incarcerated individuals to access Pell Grants.  In 2020, Congress voted to reestablish access to Pell Grants.

Dr. Sean McKitrick, MSCHE Vice President of Institutional Field Relations, stated, “MSCHE member institutions deliver high quality educational programming to students, and this growth of the Second Chance Pell Experiment will enhance the work institutions are already doing to provide access to quality education for incarcerated individuals.”

In 2021, MSCHE President Dr. Heather Perfetti served as a primary negotiator representing accrediting agencies on the Affordability and Student Loans Committee for the negotiated rulemaking on higher education issues, which included proposed regulations for prison education programs. In addition, MSCHE has advocated for the expansion of the program and offered “Gearing Up for Pell for All: Focus on Higher Education in Prison Programs” during the Commission’s 2021 Annual Conference.

“The Commission supports efforts to increase access to quality higher education opportunities for incarcerated individuals, and the Second Chance Pell Experiment builds upon the work of MSCHE institutions to deliver transformational opportunities through education,” said Dr. Perfetti.

The prison education program proposed regulations resulting from the Affordability and Student Loans Committee will be released for public comment.  MSCHE encourages its membership, in particular MSCHE members who deliver academic programs within prisons, to review the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) when released in the Federal Register and submit comments to the USDE during the comment period.