Based on data from 43 states, a survey by the Institute for Higher Education Policy reported by the Wall Street Journal found only 6 percent of prisoners were enrolled in vocational or academic post-secondary programs during the 2009-2010 school year. Of enrollees, 86 percent were serving time in 13 states, suggesting other states provide little access to inmate education.
The survey, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, argued for giving inmates greater access to education—including Internet-based programs—on grounds that doing so could reduce the overall cost of incarceration by cutting recidivism. About 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. cost about $52 billion a year. Inmate education plummeted after the 1994 federal crime law made prisoners ineligible for Pell Grants, a form of federal financial aid for college. The study said 13 states have made inmate education a priority: Washington, Idaho, California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and New York.