A commencement took place recently at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in attendance.

DeVos was there to celebrate the 2019 Tulsa Community College Second Chance Commencement. More than 70 Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmates graduated with a degree or a GED certificate because of the Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program.

Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree, the website states.

But college degree programs in prisons are nothing new. What makes this program different is Pell Grants. Normally, inmates in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections pay for their own education if they earn it while they are incarcerated.

Pell Grants could be the game changer DOC has been looking for. Prisons are expensive, and too many Oklahomans are winding up there with no hope for a better future.

Because of the Pell Grants, more inmates may pursue degrees. By earning a degree, officials hope to cut down on recidivism and the number of inmates housed should decline.

Some inmates, before their incarceration, never thought they would be able to earn degrees. However, with that paper in hand, we hope it makes it easier for them to find gainful employment and maybe even further their education and become productive members of society who look at the world in an entirely different way — a way that leads them to a fruitful, fulfilling life that will prevent them from re-offending and returning to prison.

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