Prison Education Program (PEP) Updates and Upcoming Webinar

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) supports the established and continued efforts of our institutional membership in delivering quality education to incarcerated students and is sharing these important updates regarding Federal Pell Grants for Prison Education Programs (PEP).

In December 2020, the FAFSA Simplification Act passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and made important changes to the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA) and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including reinstating Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated persons pursuing postsecondary education with an approved PEP.

In October 2022, the United States Department of Education (USDE) published final regulations that provide a framework for how to implement Pell reinstatement and ensure high-quality postsecondary education in correctional facilities. PEP must be approved by the institution’s accrediting agency as well as USDE and their state corrections departments or the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in addition to meeting other requirements. The provisions of the FAFSA Simplification Act that apply to confined or incarcerated individuals become effective on July 1, 2023.

Some institutions were approved participants under the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative (SCP ESI). These institutions have the option to reapply under a revised experiment but must meet the requirements of USDE. On April 18, 2023, USDE issued an Invitation to Participate in a Revised Second Chance Pell Experiment Under the Experimental Sites Initiative. If an institution did not begin operating under the SCP ESI program prior to July 1, 2023, it should submit a substantive change for the PEP after July 1, 2023.

Policy, Procedure, and Guidelines

MSCHE is revising the Substantive Change Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines to add Prison Education Programs (PEP) effective July 1, 2023. No call for comments will be made during this revision process as the changes are mandated by federal regulation.

Revised policy documents will be available on the Commission’s Browse Policies page on July 1, 2023.

A new substantive change request form for Prison Education Programs will be posted on the Commission’s Substantive Change page.

Pell Reinstatement Event

MSCHE, in collaboration with Maryland Department of Corrections, New Jersey’s Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons consortium (NJ-STEP), and Vera Institute of Justice, is offering a free webinar on May 30, 2023, titled Pell Reinstatement: What Colleges Need to Know. This event will address important federal government updates, best practices from corrections, and tips for colleges as they prepare for Pell reinstatement. Register for the Event

Other Resources

MSCHE Prison Education Programs Guidance Document

USDE PEP Questions and Answers


Vera Institute for Justice

Vera Institute for Justice Postsecondary Education in Prison Programs and Accreditation—General Considerations for Peer Reviewers and Accreditors