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Program That Brought College Classes To Donovan Inmates Has Friend In Betsy DeVos

The entrance to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa is shown ...

Photo by Angela Carone

Above: The entrance to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa is shown in this undated photo.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos shocked many last week when she told reporters she supports the Second Chance Pell Grant program. Unpopular among conservatives, the Obama initiative granted prisoners federal student aid for college.

That is good news 20 inmates at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa. They started their associate’s degrees in business administration through Southwestern College in 2016 under the program.

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Patrice Milkovich oversees the effort and said the students have finished their preparatory coursework and are now moving into accounting.

“The students are in the hardest part of the curriculum right now. The overall GPA for their degree is 3.35, so they’re excelling,” she said. “They’re performing very well, they’re dedicated, they’re committed, they’re an intelligent group of people and our faculty are very impressed with their interactions with the students.”

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Milkovich said the program lost two students through attrition and three when they were released from Donovan. She said two students who were released are continuing their education on the outside.

Federal law has barred prisoners from receiving Pell Grants since the 1990s. Former President Barack Obama waived the ban for 12,000 inmates at 67 facilities on a pilot basis. Only inmates within five years of being released are eligible for the grants.

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DeVos, in a sit-down with reporters from multiple outlets, said her office supporting Second Chance Pell was “a very good and interesting possibility.” She said her alma mater, Calvin College, is graduating its first class of inmate seminary students.

If the current administration pulls the program, Milkovich said Southwestern would continue to fund the work at Donovan. She said, however, the grants of up to $5,775 per student are instrumental in covering the cost of materials.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos shocked many last week when she told reporters she supports the Second Chance Pell Grant program. Unpopular among conservatives, the Obama initiative granted prisoners federal student aid for college.

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