St. Francis College Selected for U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Program
St. Francis College is one of 67 higher-education institutions selected by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to take part in the expanded Second Chance Pell Sites Initiative, a program that allows incarcerated women and men to use federal financial aid for college education.
Incarcerated individuals at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), a federal facility in South Slope, Brooklyn, will now be eligible for need-based Pell Grants to pay for St. Francis College coursework that will lead to associate degrees in criminal justice. SFC instructors will teach the students remotely and in-person, in accordance with MDC rules.
Second Chance Pell will operate as part of SFC’s Post-Prison Program, an initiative that enrolls formerly incarcerated people as full-time undergraduates at the College. The intent is that some Second Chance Pell students will join the Post-Prison Program once their incarceration concludes, to complete additional coursework required to earn bachelor’s degrees.
Since its 2014 founding by Emily Horowitz, Ph.D., SFC Professor of Sociology, the Post-Prison Program has enrolled 23 individuals, six of whom have graduated so far.
“Franciscan values of generosity and compassion are cornerstone to the St. Francis College tradition, and we live those values by extending educational opportunities to people who have served time and typically face significant obstacles to enrolling in college,” said Dr. Horowitz, who oversees the Post-Prison Program with Eric Platt, Ph.D., SFC Professor of History and Chair of the Economics, History, and Political Science Department. “Second Chance Pell takes that one step further, helping bring higher education to people still incarcerated. We’re thrilled and grateful to be part of it.”
SFC collaborated with MDC in its Second Chance Pell application earlier this year. Support from United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York, along with that of the U.S. Congressional delegation from New York City, helped ensure the application’s approval.
“Extending educational opportunities to previously incarcerated New Yorkers is key to ending the cycle of recidivism, strengthening our workforce, and making our communities safer,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m thrilled that St. Francis College will continue participating in the Second Chance Pell Program to give previously incarcerated individuals a chance at bright futures. I’m proud to have fought for this funding so that St. Francis College and other higher-education institutions can participate in this important work.”
Michelle Gantt, Ed.D, Education Supervisor at MDC, will assist with student recruitment, applications, arranging schedules and facilitating correspondence. The College expects that 15 to 20 MDC incarcerated students will start SFC classes in spring 2021.
“We know that education inside correctional facilities is key to increasing incarcerated men and women opportunities for a successful reentry,” said Dr. Gantt. “Offering Second Chance Pell with St. Francis College provides these individuals with a foundation to obtain rewarding and sustainable employment to live a more fulfilling life.”
The DOE created Second Chance Pell in 2015, as a test to restore Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated individuals who, due to legislation passed in 1994, had been ineligible. Pell Grants—which are not repaid—are awarded by the federal government to college students who have exceptional financial need.
The DOE announced its latest cohort of Second Chance Pell institutions on April 24, 2020, bringing the total number taking part to 130. All participating institutions have demonstrated that they are equipped to work with correctional facilities to enroll and teach the incarcerated population.