For the first time in over 20 years, Arkansas prisoners will have access to federal grants to go to college.
Shorter College in North Little Rock has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education as part of a three year experiment to send inmates to school.
Shorter College says it will offer a two-year associate degree in business to 250 selected inmates as part of the program.
“To be involved in a program that would serve persons who are incarcerated is simply an extension of what we would already do normally to a population that we did not have access to,” said Jerome Green, the school’s president.
Green says self-employment is often the best alternative for inmates who struggle to find employment upon release because of their criminal record.
“This is important because many people will not be considered for employment by employers because of the fact that they are convicted felons,” he said.
A 1994 crime bill, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, had previously prohibited imprisoned adults from receiving the federal Pell Grants.
Arkansas State University’s Newport campus is also getting access to the Pell Grants, along with dozens of colleges across the country.