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Jun 26, 2016 11:27 AM EDT

Thousands Of New York-Area Inmates Will Be Given Federal Funds For College Behind Bars


About 12,000 inmates nationwide will be eligible for Pell Grant for a pilot program.

The Obama Administration announced on June 24, Friday, the chosen schools (colleges and universities) for a pilot program, in which about 12,000 inmates at state and federal prisons nationwide will be eligible for Pell Grants. This is the first time since 1994 that inmates are granted for college education, which fund low-income college students, Washington Street Journal reported. 

The selected schools in New York state are Bard College, with 228 students; Marymount Manhattan College, 98; Nyack College, with 105; CUNY Hostos Community College and CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, with 435; Mercy College, 115; and North Country Community College, with 129 students.

In Connecticut, the selected schools are Quinebaug Valley Community College, 60;Middlesex Community College, 51; Asnuntuck Community College, 540; and Three Rivers Community College, with 150.

Lastly, the selected university in New Jersey is Rutgers, which will be eligible to receive Pell grants for up to 598 inmates, and will have both associate and bachelor's degree programs. 

According to proponents of college-in-prison programs, a research shown that those prisoners who receive college education in a prison are less likely to commit future crimes, however, some disagree with the idea. Before this program was implemented, detractors criticized it because it is using taxpayer dollars to fund the education of those who have committed crimes. They also added that vocational education is more appropriate for people in prison.

Although the program aims to give hope to thousands of prisoners to have a brighter future by taking college education, there is disagreement about which inmates should be eligible. According to those who are in favor with the program, sex offenders and those serving life sentences should be banned. The new Pell grant pilot is more restrictive, and only favors to those who will be released within the next five years. 

Blast from the past, the Congress banned prisoners from using Pell Grants in 1994 because of  "tough on crime" legislation, Market Watch reported. 

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