10 state inmates enrolled in college classes with federal grant | 406 Politics

Last month, ten inmates at Montana State Prison began college classes with Helena College under the Second Chance Pell Grant program that officials hope can help reduce recidivism.

The federal program is administered by the Montana Department of Corrections and the Montana University System.

Pell grants are generally available to needy students, although previously they were not available to students in prison. The US Department of Education announced in April an expansion of the Second Chance program, which is now in its third round of grant installments. Among the 73 additional colleges and universities that will offer college courses for students in prisons are Great Falls College, Montana State University Billings, Dawson Community College and Helena College.

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The 10 inmates who received the grants began work Aug. 29 toward an Applied Science Certificate in Automotive Technology through Helena College, the state Department of Corrections said in a statement Monday. hurry.

“I believe this will be a critical part of my success,” said Ty Jensen, an inmate who recently took a welding course at the prison and hopes to own a fabrication and body shop. “It will help me gain the skills and the ability to have a career and stay out and never come back.

Helena College Dean Sandra Bauman said in the press release that students will be connected to the classroom experience through smart boards and other technologies while gaining hands-on experience through Montana Correctional Enterprises, the prison work and training.

“It provides the right education to enter the automotive industry, but it also provides an opportunity for anyone who wants to further their education and earn an associate’s degree,” Bauman said. “From there, the sky is the limit. This is a university system program, so there are (a) lot of transferable courses. Students can continue to build on this education as they wish.”

Both corrections and education officials hailed the program’s opportunities in Monday’s news release.

“This is a great opportunity for people under our supervision to further their education and improve their skills so they can have more job opportunities when they leave our facilities,” said DOC Director, Brian Gootkin. “We are excited to help these offenders fill the employment gaps in Montana with the skills they are gaining through training with Montana Correctional Enterprises and now with additional skills from our college partners.”

“Higher education is a proven pathway to reduce recidivism, improve post-release employment opportunities, and provide the skills and training necessary for successful reintegration,” said Montana Higher Education Commissioner Clayton Christian. “Providing high-quality educational opportunities to students from all backgrounds is at the heart of everything we do in the Montana university system. I am pleased that our colleges and universities are joining with the Department of Corrections to improve outcomes for individuals and communities. »

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