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Michigan Permits Prisoners to Seek Financial Assistance for College

In October 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a 2020 budget that allowed prisoners to seek college financial aid through a state program that had long been out-of-bounds to prisoners.

The Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) reimburses tuition expenses for Medicaid-eligible students at participating private and public colleges. The 2020 budget allocates $64.3 million to TIP, administered by the Michigan Department of Treasury (DOT).

“It makes a statement saying that education changes lives,” said Terrell Blount, a program associate for the Vera Institute of Justice. “It reduces recidivism. Everyone agrees people should be held accountable for what they’ve done or committed, but that doesn’t mean that they should be deprived and have their educational opportunity taken away from them.”

Blount said the expansion of eligibility is a “big win” for Michigan, which is now among 18 states that allows aid to imprisoned students.

According to Kyle Kaminski, of the Michigan Department of Corrections, “there are currently four Michigan colleges that offer credit-bearing postsecondary education courses in Michigan prisons: Jackson College, Mott Community College, Delta Community College and Calvin College.

“In the winter semester 2019, Kaminski said, 770 incarcerated students participated in for-credit classes, not including correspondence course participants.”

Virginia Przygocki, dean of career education and learning partnerships at Delta College, said she thinks the TIP financial aid will motivate more incarcerated individuals to complete their GED and pursue a college education. She also noted that Pell grant pilot participants have experienced “life-changing” effects. ‘‘Watching them develop through the program, they became much more confident,” she said. “They began to realize the value of the education that they were receiving. They were kind of leaving the life they led behind.”