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1.6.5 Incarcerated Students

Incarcerated students are not eligible for federal student loans, but they are eligible for certain grants.233 A student is considered to be incarcerated if the student is serving a criminal sentence in a federal, state, or local penitentiary, prison, jail, reformatory, work farm, or similar correctional institution.234 However, a student who is in a halfway house or home detention or is sentenced to serve only weekends is not considered incarcerated.235

An otherwise eligible institution may become ineligible if, in its latest complete award year, more than 25% of its regular students are incarcerated.236

In July 2015, the Department announced the Second Chance Pell pilot program. This pilot program will test new models to allow incarcerated students to receive Pell grants and pursue postsecondary education. Through this pilot program, incarcerated individuals who otherwise meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release, particularly within the next five years, can access Pell grants to pursue postsecondary education and training. Pell grant amounts will be subject to cost-of-attendance restrictions, so Pell grants can only be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, and supplies required by an individual’s education program. Incarcerated individuals will not be eligible to receive other types of federal student aid under this pilot.237 In June 2016, the Department announced the sixty-seven colleges and universities that had been selected to participate in the Second Chance Pell pilot program for the 2016–2017 award year.238


  • 233 {197} 20 U.S.C. § 1091(b)(5).

  • 234 {198} 34 C.F.R. § 600.2. See, e.g., Ashton v. Knepp, 2014 WL 3845117 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 5, 2014) (prisoner’s claim that prison officials violated HEA in seizing funds traceable to federal student grant for inmate account survived motion to dismiss).

  • 235 {199} 34 C.F.R. § 600.2.

  • 236 {200} 20 U.S.C. § 1002(a)(3)(C).

  • 237 Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Educ., U.S. Department of Education Launches Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals (July 31, 2015).

  • 238 Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Educ., 12,000 Incarcerated Students to Enroll in Postsecondary Educational and Training Programs Through Education Department’s New Second Chance Pell Pilot Program (June 24, 2016).