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2020 Education Philanthropy Report, Empowering Possibilities
Newsletter Article November 13, 2020

Vera Institute of Justice Works to Develop Guidelines and Supports for Postsecondary Education in Prison

As part of our focus area to Expand Postsecondary Education in Prison, Ascendium made a two-year, $1.1 million grant to the Vera Institute for Justice, Unlocking the Promise of Pell for Students in Prison, in the Spring of 2020.

This grant supports Vera Institute of Justice in providing meaningful and in-depth technical assistance, training and advising to new and existing Second Chance Pell Initiative college sites and their state corrections system partners. The goal is to ensure the implementation of high-quality postsecondary education in prison and to help the field grow a cohort of correctional administrators prepared to support the broad expansion of such programs. Now this grant is producing useful materials for the field.

As part of this project, Vera has produced a “Lessons from Second Chance Pell” Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion toolkit, outlining federal financial aid eligibility requirements that often stymie incarcerated college students, such as Selective Service registration, issues with defaulted loans, crime-specific restrictions that may affect eligibility and the documents required to obtain need-based aid. It also provides strategies to help students in prison overcome these difficulties. Vera has also created a FAFSA instruction video and a Second Chance Pell fact sheet to help postsecondary education programs in prison—which provide academic and career-technical courses—improve facility safety and reentry and workforce outcomes of participating students.

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