By Witness LA, July 8, 2019.
Twenty-five years ago, the massive Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which, among other things, prevented incarcerated students hoping for a college degree from accessing Pell Grants, was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, and essentially resulted in the slashing of opportunities for higher education in federal and state prisons across the U.S., a move that, as Mikaol T. Nietzel, president emeritus of Missouri State University, wrote for Forbes recently was “a foolish decision, driven by political posturing rather than financial necessity or sound policy.”
And so it has been for a quarter-century.
In April of this year, however, the Restoring Education and Learning Act—or REAL Act—was introduced into the U.S. Senate by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), with companion legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Danny Davis (D-IL), Jim Banks (R-IN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and French Hill (R-AK).
If passed, the REAL Act would reverse the 1994 Pell grant ban, thus finally unlocking financial aid for men and women in the nation’s prisons. The legislation’s early supporters include such organizations as the American Bar Association, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the American Correctional Association, the Equal Justice Initiative, the ACLU, and more.