Congress Restores Pell Grants for Inmates

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Congressional leaders struck a deal to reinstate Pell grants for incarcerated students more than a quarter-century after banning the aid for prison education programs, Politico reports. The legislation, to be included in a year-end spending deal, would lift the prohibition Congress imposed in the 1994 crime law that then-President Bill Clinton signed and Joe Biden championed. It is part of a package of higher education policies that leaders of the House and Senate education committees negotiated over several weeks. That agreement will be attached to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that congressional leaders are planning to pair with the nearly $900 billion coronavirus economic relief deal.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education Committee, said the deal was a “significant step” toward making “federal grants and loans more accessible and more generous, particularly for our most vulnerable students.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, praised the deal for including policies that helped disadvantaged student populations. “For too long, students who are incarcerated, students who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges, and students who have drug-related offenses have been blocked from receiving federal aid,” she said.  In addition to restoring Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated students, the deal would also repeal a 1998 law that restricts federal financial aid for college students who are convicted of a drug crime. House and Senate leaders agreed to boost the maximum Pell grant award by $150 to $6,495 for the 2021-2022 school year.

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