Ivy Tech, DOC plan to offer Pell grants to prison inmates

People incarcerated in Indiana prisons could soon access federal Pell grants for education and training through Ivy Tech under a program announced Thursday by the statewide community college and the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC).

Ivy Tech Community College announced the DOC has approved two of its programs for federal Pell grants for prison education. If approved by the U.S. Department of Education and Ivy Tech’s accrediting agencies, people incarcerated in Indiana state prisons will have the opportunity to access need-based financial aid for education and training aligned to Indiana’s high-wage, high-demand workforce sectors, such as business, manufacturing, logistics and automotive.

The DOC approved two business administration certificates offered by Ivy Tech Madison and Ivy Tech Terre Haute’s automotive technology technical certificate for Pell grant eligibility. The U.S. Department of Education and Ivy Tech’s accrediting agencies must also approve the programs before individuals in prison can apply for and receive financial aid for them.

Ivy Tech will collaborate with DOC to ensure graduates are placed in employment with felony-friendly employers seeking skilled workers. Graduates of short-term certificate programs will have the opportunity to further their education at any one of Ivy Tech’s 19 campuses, including Columbus, and 41 sites statewide.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, students enrolled in approved prison education programs (PEPs) are now eligible for federal Pell grants, and Indiana is one of the first states to participate in the expansion of Pell grants for incarcerated individuals.

“Ivy Tech is committed to providing accessible, affordable and high-quality education to all Hoosiers, including those who are justice involved or incarcerated,” said Dr. Sue Ellspermann, president, Ivy Tech Community College. “Helping incarcerated individuals earn postsecondary credentials of value not only reduces recidivism, increases employment, supports successful reentry and enhances public safety, it also reflects our ideals as a nation of second chances and limitless possibilities. Ivy Tech is Indiana’s workforce engine and provides stackable credentials that allow these Hoosiers to continue their education after release as well.”

Ivy Tech has a long history of serving justice-involved adults and youth in Indiana. In 2021, Ivy Tech Madison was selected by DOC to offer adult education and vocational services at Indiana’s 15 adult correctional facilities across the state. Each year, more than 5,000 people currently or previously incarcerated in Indiana have received instruction in fields such as logistics, welding, cosmetology, hospitality and culinary arts, building trades, and English literacy through Ivy Tech. Ivy Tech and the IDOC also offer skills training programs at eight sites statewide equipping soon to be released offenders with an industry certification aligned to employer demand for entry-level skilled workers.

Prison education programs have shown to reduce recidivism rates, increase employment rates and create meaningful opportunities for rehabilitation among incarcerated people. These programs have also been proven to positively transform the culture and climate of correctional facilities, enhancing the health and safety of people who reside and work there.

“For incarcerated individuals, having the opportunity to earn a college certificate has the potential to permanently change the trajectory of their lives,” said DOC Commissioner Christina Reagle. “These two programs will not only positively impact individuals while they are incarcerated but will set them up for success when they are released back into the community.”