New $4.7M Ready for Pell Initiative Seeks to Strengthen Postsecondary Education in Prison Programs | Ascendium Education Group, Inc. Skip to main content


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New $4.7M Ready for Pell Initiative Seeks to Strengthen Postsecondary Education in Prison Programs

October 13, 2021 2-minute read
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Expanding postsecondary education in prison is one of Ascendium's four grantmaking focus areas. We work in this area by supporting the implementation of new practices and scaling what's been proven to work, building a body of evidence through research and evaluation and supporting strong multi-sector statewide partnerships.

The restoration of Pell Grants in the 2023-24 academic year presents a unique moment in time to strengthen and support quality postsecondary programs in preparation for the tens of thousands of new students eager to enroll. That’s why we’re excited to announce Ready for Pell, a two-year, $4.7 million strategic initiative for newly established postsecondary education in prison programs so they can fully take advantage of this opportunity for incarcerated learners.

Ready for Pell will provide grants of up to $125,000 each to postsecondary education in prison programs, or systems representing multiple institutions, in states that are actively coordinating at a systems level across multiple institutional and agency partners.

To make the most of this investment, Ascendium has named Jobs for the Future (JFF) as the intermediary grant partner. JFF, a national nonprofit that drives change in American workforce and education systems to achieve economic advancement for all, will release a request for proposals for interested programs to apply, with grants to be awarded later this year. JFF will also convene a Ready for Pell advisory board of leaders from the field and select, support and work with an independent evaluator to gather insights from the participating sites.

According to the Vera Institute for Justice’s 2019 report, Investing in Futures, 64% of people incarcerated in state and federal prisons would be academically eligible for postsecondary education and 463,000 of them would be eligible for Pell Grants.

“Ascendium hopes to capitalize on this time-sensitive opportunity to help emerging programs ensure they’re providing high-quality education and beneficial results for learners even as they scale up their programs,” said Amy Kerwin, Ascendium’s vice president — education philanthropy. “For these recently established programs planning to leverage Pell as a new funding source, now is a critical time to build a strong foundation for supporting students and ensuring quality.”

Follow #AscendiumEP, #ReadyForPell and JFF on social media and watch this newsletter for upcoming announcements on the request for proposals, grant awards and other news on this initiative.