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Learn more about JFF
Center for Justice & Economic Advancement

Normalizing Education Resource Center


Including Students Without Access to Pell:

Strategies for Raising Flexible Funding


Prepared by Rachel Pleasants McDonnell, Director, Jobs for the Future; Eldredge Blalock, Development Manager, Hudson Link; Tanya Erzen, Associate Professor and Director, Crime, Law and Justice Studies, University of Puget Sound; Director, BA Degree in Liberal Studies with Freedom Education Project Puget Sound; Alyssa Knight, Co-Founder, Freedom Education Project Puget Sound and Student at University of Washington; Lila McDowell, Deputy Director, Hudson Link 

The information provided here is a snapshot of factors to consider when offering programs to students who are incarcerated and who are not eligible for Pell Grants. Universities and colleges are individually operated, and not all strategies are equally applicable. If you have specific questions, contact us.

The restoration of access to Pell Grants for incarcerated learners is a huge step forward in increasing educational opportunities, but we know that there will be learners for whom a Pell Grant is not an option for a variety of reasons.

Colleges may be tempted to restrict access to prison education programs (PEP) to those who are Pell eligible for funding reasons, but in order to not reproduce systemic (and inequitable) barriers to opportunity, it’s essential to ensure that programs are accessible to all learners, even those who are ineligible for Pell. We believe all learners should have access to high-quality and meaningful educational programming.


Seven tips for colleges that are devising strategies for raising additional flexible funding to support access to PEP programs: