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Center for American Progress

CAP’s Comment on the Prison Education Program Regulation
In the News

CAP’s Comment on the Prison Education Program Regulation

Bradly D. Custer submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Education on the Prison Education Program regulation.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Prison Education Program (PEP) regulation.

The restoration of Pell Grants to people in prison is a milestone in the history of college access. Since 1994, when Congress eliminated Pell Grant access, incarcerated people have had limited opportunities to enroll in higher education. Now with renewed federal funding, there is hope that prison facilities in every state will welcome colleges and universities to offer high-quality programming to their eager students. Realizing this vision depends on the effective implementation of the Department’s regulation, which was a successful product of the negotiated rulemaking process last fall. The consensus-reaching language sets a strong foundation for the new Prison Education Program, but there is room for improvement.

This letter offers 11 recommendations, which are divided into two sections:

Critical Policy Changes

  1. Prevent Institutions of Higher Education and Oversight Entities from Adding Eligibility Restrictions
  2. Develop an Appeals Process for Oversight Entity Decisions
  3. Require Institutions to Disclose Third-Party Vendors
  4. Remove a Provision Allowing Institutions to Deny Admission to Formerly Incarcerated Applicants
  5. Make Best Interest Determination Metrics Optional
  6. Require Oversight Entities to Provide Documentation of Feedback Process

Technical Revisions

  1. Clarify the Two-Year Initial Approval Process
  2. Address Technical Language Error in Section on Application Requirements
  3. Define Prison Education Program
  4. Combine Two Best Interest Metrics Related to Transfer
  5. Publish Prison Education Program Applications

The letter concludes by briefly highlighting some of the topics that the Department will need to address in guidance to institutions of higher education (IHEs), accreditors, and oversight entities.

By adopting these suggestions, the Department can ensure that incarcerated students will receive high-quality college programming from institutions and correctional agencies that are invested in the well-being of their students.

The above excerpt was originally published in Regulations.gov. Click here to view the full comment letter.

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Bradley D. Custer

Former Senior Policy Analyst


Higher Education Policy

The Higher Education team works toward building an affordable and high-quality higher education system that supports economic mobility and racial equity.

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