Guidance issued on Pell eligibility for confined or incarcerated individuals
April 06, 2023
Postsecondary institutions interested in developing programs for confined or incarcerated individuals recently received some new guidance from the Department of Education.
In a March 29 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), the Department provided guidance regarding the requirements for confined or incarcerated individuals to receive Federal Pell Grants on or after July 1, 2023.
The guidance follows the FAFSA Simplification Act (the Act), signed into law in December 2020, which restored Pell Grant eligibility to confined or incarcerated individuals for the first time since 1994. The new law requires a “confined or incarcerated individual” to enroll in an eligible prison education program (PEP) in order to access a Federal Pell Grant.
On October 28, 2022, the Department of Education (Department) published a final rule in the Federal Register (87 FR 65426) to implement the requirements in the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA) for eligible PEPs. This final rule will go into effect on July 1.
The Dear Colleague Letter summarizes the requirements to restore Pell Grant eligibility to confined or incarcerated individuals in Federal or State correctional facilities, and updates information regarding Pell Grant eligibility requirements for confined or incarcerated individuals in local facilities. It summarizes applicable regulations for postsecondary institutions offering PEPs and the steps required to develop and implement such programs so that confined or incarcerated individuals may gain access to Pell Grant funds. It also describes the responsibilities of schools, accrediting agencies, and oversight entities regarding PEPs.
The DCL includes a chart which summarizes the sections of the Act that pertain (either directly or indirectly) to the eligibility of incarcerated students for student assistance under Title IV of the HEA and provides links to corresponding Department guidance or regulations.