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Summaries of RCT Grants

Randomized controlled trial of providing Pell Grant eligibility to prison inmates to pursue postsecondary education

This is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the impact of offering federal “Pell” grants to incarcerated adults to pursue postsecondary education.

Grant Recipient: Drexel University

Term: 2018 –2023

Principal Investigator: Jordan Hyatt, Ph.D., Drexel University
Sarah Tahamont, M.P.P., Ph.D., University of Maryland

Funding: $927,774

Summary: This is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the impact of offering federal “Pell” grants to incarcerated adults to pursue postsecondary education. The U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Pilot Program is approximately a $30 million per year program that provides grant funds to colleges and universities, which the institutions use to cover the cost of delivering college courses to eligible inmates.

This program has not yet been rigorously evaluated but is widely implemented with significant taxpayer investment, underscoring the need for this RCT. The program is backed by evidence that it may reduce recidivism, based on a 2013 RAND Corporation meta-analysis of studies of correctional education for incarcerated adults.

This study will recruit inmates who are interested in pursuing postsecondary education from all 26 state correctional institutions (SCIs) in Pennsylvania, and collect documentation from these inmates and the SCIs to determine the inmates’ program eligibility. The study will randomly assign approximately 350 eligible inmates to receive the offer of a Pell grant and transfer to an SCI that provides access to qualifying educational programming, or to a usual-services control group. Randomization will be conducted on a rolling basis as eligible inmates are identified and other requirements for program participation are fulfilled (e.g., inmates’ completion of the federal FAFSA form for financial aid). The primary outcomes will be recidivism and employment as measured with official arrest and employment records two to six years after random assignment.

The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.

Grants

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