Us Gao Prisoner Federal Education Funding 1994
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p23Y2 unbd stutee General Accounthg ofrice GAO Wulthgton, Beall, 1 D.C. 20648 mhlrtlon c and Ellmur services Dmdorl 3 -257466 August 5, 1994 The Honorable United States Dear Senator Harris Wofford Senate k Wofford: 1 The Congress has been considering legislation, as part of a crime reduction package, that would prohibit -prison inmates from receiving federal funding for education, such as Pell grants. You requested that we (1) identify the number of inmates receiving Pell grants, (2) describe the effect on grants for other needy students, and (3) measure the impact of education on recidivism, or relapse into criminal . behavior. As agreed with your staff, this letter conveys the information you requested. I [ i I 1 1 Backoround At $6 billion in 1993-94, the Pell grant program is the largest federal program providing grants to help students from low-income families finance their undergraduate postsecondary education. First authorized in 1972, the grants are fully funded by the federal government. They are awarded on the basis of need, as determined by the difference between the student's financial resources and the cost to him or her to attend school, including tuition transportation, and fees, room and board, booka, supplies, miscellaneous expenses, and, In some cases, child or dependent care and disability-related expenses. The maximum award appropriated for award year 1993-94 was $2,300.' e In addition to demonstrating need, students must be enrolled in an undergraduate course of study, and must meet numerous other eligibility requirements, including (1) a hfgh school degree, (2) a recognized equivalent, or (3) have an ability to benefit from the education. The Higher I 'An award year is a 12 month period of time from July 1 of one year to June 30 of the next. Award year 1993-94 is the period July 1, 1993, through June 30, 1994. I 6 c GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates 1 I r I / B-257466 Education Amendments of 1992 removed any requirement for a minimum number of courses or any limit on the number of years a student may take to complete an undergraduate degree. These amendments also prohibited 'incarcerated students, who are serving a death sentence or life sentence without possibility of parole, from receiving grants and limited the grants for other incarcerated students to tuition, fees, books, and supplies. On the government's behalf, schools approved by the Department of Education determine students' eligibility and Approved schools fall into process and award the grants. (1) public or private non-profit one of three categories: (2) public or private nonschools of higher education, profit postsecondary vocational schools, and (3) private for-profit proprietary scho01s.~ All eligible schools must have legal authorization to operate within a state, accreditation by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or approval by state agencies endorsed by the Secretary of Education, and admit as regular students only those with or (1) a high school diploma, (2) a recognized equivalent, (3) be beyond the state age of compulsory school According to the 1992 amendments, a school attendance. with more than 25 percent of its students incarcerated is not eligible to participate in federal student financial Pell grants.3 The amendments also aid programs, including limit eligibility of correspondence programs because a school is generally eligible only if (1) less than 50 percent of its students are enrolled in correspondence courses, and (2) less than 50 percent of its courses are taught through correspondence. Scoue and Methodolocv To obtain the information you requested, we interviewed program officials at the Departments of Education and In addition, we Justice, as well as academic experts. examined Pell grant eligibility criteria and procedures, analyzed preliminary 1993-94 data on Pell grants awarded to 2We use "schools" instead of t'institutions,*t in higher education legislation, to refer providing the education in order to avoid prison institutions. as referred to to the entities confusion with 'The Secretary may waive this prohibition for a nonprofit institution that offers a two-year associate degree and/or a four-year baccalaureate degree. 2 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates B-257466 incarcerated recidivism. students, and reviewed the literature on The Department of Education first began collecting data during the 1993-94 award year on whether or not Pell The Department, although recipients were incarcerated. still correcting the data , provided us with preliminary data on incarcerated students as of April 4, 1994. According to Department officials, these data are very close to the final totals because most of the awards had However, the accuracy of the been made as of this date. data is limited by its preliminary nature and Education's Department officials limited verification procedures. estimate that the data will not be complete until approximately one year after the end of the award year. The verification procedures are limited because schools The Department only attempts to verify the self-report. schools' reports if there is an obvious anomaly, such as an Ohio school that reported more incarcerated students than the total for any other state. Particiuation of Inmates Small Part Of Pell Proaram Pell Inmate participation is a small part of the total Only grant program, according to our data analysis. 23,000, of the approximately 4 million Pell recipients for This represents the 1993-94 award year, were incarcerated. less than 1 percent, that is, 1 out of every 500 Pell Inmates received $35 million of the $6 billion recipients. This represents less awarded in Pell grants in 1993-94. than 1 percent, that is, 6 cents out of every 10 Pell In addition, the average award for program dollars. incarcerated students was the same as for non-incarcerated students, $1,500 out of the $2,300 dollar maximum award.' Finally, only a small percentage of all inmates receive This is because the 23,000 inmates represent Pell grants. just 2 out of every 100 federal or state inmates. Incarcerated students receiving Pell grants are concentrated in a few states and schools, as shown in figure 1. Almost three-fourths of inmate Pell recipients Inmates in non-federal prisons in are in nine states. 'The data for non-incarcerated students is for the 1992-93 However, we have no award year, the most recent available. reason to believe that the 1993-94 average award would be significantly different, particularly as the maximum appropriated award was the same. 3 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates B-257466 seven states may not receive Pell grants because of the states' failure to comply with a 1992 amendment, which requires that states demonstrate that Pell-awards will be state funding. used to supplement, rather than supplant, The distinction between supplementing and supplanting is determined by requiring the state to maintain the fiscal year 1988 funding level of postsecondary education See enclosure I for assistance to incarcerated students.5 the number of incarcerated Pell recipients in each state. Fiuure 1: Geoaraohic Distribution Incarcerated Students Receivina of Pell Grants 'The Department of Education denied California, Michigan, Nebraska,and New Jersey certification that they met the funding requirements, Arizona and Florida did not apply, and Missouri's initial certification was withdrawn on February 1, 1994 after they submitted corrected funding data. 4 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates B-257466 Almost one-third of inmates receiving Pell grants are at 11 Less than 3 percent (269 of 9,468) of schools schools, eligible to award Pell grants report inmates as recipients. See enclosure II for a list of the schools with the highest As shown in table 1, number of incarcerated students. incarcerated Pell recipients are most likely to enroll in programs at public post-secondary schools of at least 2 years, but less than 4, or g ro g rams at private non-profit schools of 4 or more years. Table 1: Percentaue of Inmate Pell Tvpe of School and Proaram Lenath Less than 2 years At least 2 years, but : less than 4 4 years or more Total Grants II bv ReciDients 2 0 8 10 39 3 1 43 12 35 0 47 53 I 38 to Incarcerated Students Grants to Other Needv Do Not Affect 9 I I 100 Students According to Department officials, grants to inmates do not affect the eligibility or size of grants to other students. If incarcerated students received no Pell grants, no student currently denied a Pell award would have received The one and no award amount would been increased. Department operates the Pell program as an entitlement 6The type of school categories in the database differ from those in the legislation in that they are defined solely by financial control rather than the distinction between schools of higher education and vocational schools. 5 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates B-257466 program in that every eligible student demonstrating a need, as defined by the program, is awarded a grant, up to a maximum award. To meet the needs of current students, This makes the program borrows from future appropriations. it unlikely that the $35 million that was awarded to incarcerated students could have been used to increase the According to Department award for other Pell recipients. officials, the money gained by reducing current expenditures by $35 million, less than 1 percent, would have been used to reduce the amount borrowed from future In addition, Department officials years' appropriations. if the money had been distributed among other estimated, individual awards would have increased by about recipients, $3, at most. Measurino the Imnact of Education on Recidivism Has Resulted in Conflictina Findinas Many studies have attempted to isolate the impact of education from the many other factors affecting recidivism. These studies have resulted in conflicting findings. Differences in findings may be partly explained by the significant methodological challenges such studies face, First, both in terms of design and availability of data, design is complicated by the varied, complex and interThe sociology of related factors influencing recidivism. criminology suggests that manyffactors are difficult to For example, a factor such as either define or measure. the prisoner's level of community support, which could include marital relationship, may be significant in marital However, a positive reducing recidivism, relationship may be a measure of community support for some, but an abusive marital relationship may increase the probability of recidivism for others, Second, design is complicated by the process of selfBecause prisoners selection for education programs. generally volunteer to participate in education programs, different from those who do not they are, by definition, volunteer. These differences may affect recidivism as The much, or more, than the education programs themselves. best way to control for these differences, both known and unknown, would be to conduct an experiment in which prisoners are randomly provided or not provided education programs. The experience of individual inmates from both groups could then be followed, over a period of years, With or without a after the inmates leave prison. the impact would require randomized study, determining 6 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates B-257466 tracking individual prisoners over time because of the inter-related factors that influence recidivism. We have provided.your staff with an annotated literature search and copies of some recent studies on the impact of Included was a study the Bureau education on recidivism. of Prisons released in 1992 on its Federal Post Release we Employment Project (PREP). As we reported previously,' found the study to be generally well-designed, it demonstrates some of the difficulties associated with PREP found that inmates studies of recidivism. participating in work or vocational education were less likely to have their parole revoked (as a result of of their committing a crime or a technical violation parole) than other inmates who had similar background characteristics but did not participate in work or As we reported previously, a vocational training programs. potentially serious threat to the validity of the study includes (1) the absence of random assignment of prisoners and (2) differences between those who did and those who did not participate in work and vocational programs that might influence the success of the inmates after release from prison. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this letter, please call me at (202) 512-7014 or Charles Jeszeck at (202) 512-7036. Linda G. Morra, Director Education and Employment Issues 'GAO/GGD-93-33, Federal Prisons: Inmate and Staff Views on Education and Work Trainina Proarams, January 19, 1993 7 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates I ENCLOSUREI ENCLOSUREI State Totals of Incarcerated Students Awarded Pell for Award Year 1993/94, as of April 4, 1994 Ohio New York M issouri Texas Illinois Massachusetts Georgia Alabama Virginia Pennsylvania Indiana Colorado Tennessee South Carolina Maryland Louisiana M ississippi Kentucky Oregon Oklahoma Nevada Kansas W isconsin Arkansas M innesota New Jersey California M ichigan South Dakota West Virginia Wyoming New Hampshire Delaware North Dakota Utah Montana Alaska North Carolina Washington Arizona Florida Iowa Total 8 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants 3,793 3,034 1,557 1,479 1,467 1,306 1,186 1,094 1,054 708 655 567 564 517 455 363 341 319 313 309 264 249 245 214 148 143 134 112 2 58 51 44 41 39 15 4 4 2 1 1 1 22,993 Grants for Prison Inmates ENCLOSUREII ENCLOSUREII Schools With High Numbers of Incarcerated Grants for Award Year 93-94, as of April Students 4, 1994 Receiving Pell Number of Incarcerated Students 1,094 818 729 716 708 585 580 572 538 444 414 Ohio University,Ohio Park College, Missouri J F Ingram State Vocational School, Alabama Ashland University, Ohio Atlantic Union College, Massachusetts Mount Wachusett Community College, Massachusetts Microcomputer Technology Institute, Texas Wilmington College, Ohio Brewter Parker College, Georgia Genesee Community College, New York Tennessee Branell College - Nashville, 104774 9 GAO/HEHS-94-224R Pell Grants for Prison Inmates !