COLUMBIA, S.C. — SCICU members Benedict College, Southern Wesleyan University, and Voorhees University are joining Claflin University in expanding educational opportunities for persons incarcerated in South Carolina.
The four SCICU institutions are participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative. In the 1994 Crime Bill, Congress restricted prisoners’ access to Pell Grants. Second Chance Pell experimentally restores Pell Grant access to prisoners participating in correctional education provided by selected colleges and universities.
Launched with nearly 70 colleges in 2016, the Second Chance Pell program provides Pell Grants to persons incarcerated in state and federal prisons. In 2020, Claflin University was selected for the second round of participating colleges and universities.
With the 2022 addition of Benedict, Southern Wesleyan, and Voorhees, the total number of participating institutions has grown to 200. The 2022 cohort includes 24 HBCUs and minority-serving institutions.
“Claflin’s participation in the Second Chance Pell Grant Program reflects the university’s commitment to the principles on which this institution was founded,” said Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, Claflin’s ninth president. As a 2019 USA Eisenhower Fellow, Warmack conducted research exploring global best practices for reducing mass incarceration through education and rehabilitation.
“A quality education is the gateway to empowerment and plays a critical role in the successful reentry of formerly incarcerated people into their respective communities,” said Warmack. “This grant is also consistent with the university’s vision statement which includes our focus on developing a diverse and inclusive community of globally engaged visionary leaders, and one of Claflin’s essential Core Values: our commitment to valuing people.”
“Benedict College recognizes that inclusivity is paramount to helping all students attain a meaningful education,” said Jamila Lyn, director of special programming for Benedict College. “The Second Chance Pell initiative fits squarely in Benedict’s mission to advance social justice.”
Dr. April White Pugh, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Southern Wesleyan University, adds, “Approval by the U.S. Department of Education to operate as a Second Chance Pell Grant Experiment institution extends SWU’s reach in carrying out its mission to transform lives to impact the world for Christ. In partnership with South Carolina’s Department of Corrections, Healthy Routines, MarketPlace Professional Staffing, and others, Southern Wesleyan University is committed to providing South Carolina’s incarcerated an educational experience that is sure to increase their opportunities to achieve great successes.”
“The Second Chance Pell Grant will allow Voorhees University to embrace and uplift the ambitions of these citizens who are often forgotten and greatly assist them in developing clear pathways to successful, productive careers,” said Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, president of Voorhees University. “As a part of our Becoming Beloved Community, we embrace the opportunity to provide a quality education for those who are most in need and often have barriers to receiving higher education.”
Research conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice confirms the initial success of the Second Chance Pell initiative. From 2016 to 2020, over 22,000 Second Chance Pell students were enrolled and nearly 7,100 earned career/technical certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees.
RAND Corporation research shows that correctional education improves inmates’ chances of not returning to prison – 43% lower odds of recidivism. RAND also projects that every dollar invested in the Second Chance Pell initiative equates to $4-5 saved on the cost of keeping inmates in prison.
The 2022 Second Chance Pell Grant expansion is a lead-up to the full reinstatement of prisoners’ access to Pell Grants. Congress lifted the 1994 Pell Grant ban in 2020 and prisoners beginning in July 2023 will again be able to apply for federal aid.
About SCICU (South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities)
SCICU supports and promotes the values of independent higher education in South Carolina. SCICU seeks to advance higher education through fundraising, scholarships, and research, as well as by facilitating collaborative activities among the 21 member institutions. SCICU also enhances a positive public image and encourages government policies that support independent higher education.