Boston University offers a once-common special program that has become an American novelty: prison education. An estimated 300 colleges participated in prison degree programs before 1994. Today, that number is around two dozen. Boston University is the only college in Massachusetts that offers undergraduate credit courses to about 150 prisoners at three different prisons in the state, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
Until 1994, Pell Grants – federal financial aid for low-income college students – were available to prisoners. Congress cut off the funding that year, with politicians – and some voters – arguing that prisoners shouldn’t be given a free ride. Studies over the years have consistently shown that prisoners who take college classes while incarcerated are less likely to commit another crime. However, opponents of prison education counter that the inmates who take the initiative to pursue academics in jail are a self-selecting group that might be a lower risk for recidivism even without the classes.