Giving Compass' Take:

• Wayne D'Orio discusses the barriers to implementation for Second Chance Pell grants designed to help prisoners get degrees in order to reintegrate into society. 

• How can funders work to ensure that this program is successful? 

• Learn more about Second Change Pell grants

Momentum is building behind efforts to give prisoners better access to a college education and the federal student aid to pay for it.

In May, the U.S. Department of Education expanded its Second Chance Pell program, an experimental sites initiative that gives up to 12,000 incarcerated students access to federal grants. The move opens up the program to new institutional participants, which would join the current roster of about 64 colleges across 26 states.

Advocates hope to move beyond pilot programs, however, and permanently lift a 25-year-old ban on access to federal aid for all students who are incarcerated. Lawmakers from both major parties have indicated interest in doing so.

That policy change would make around 463,000 incarcerated people in state prisons eligible for Pell Grants, data from the Vera Institute for Justice shows. That's still less than 25% of people who are incarcerated in the U.S. As it is, the program's current scope means just 10,000 incarcerated students accessed the funds in the last 12 months, according to data from the Ed Department.

Still, there are reasons for optimism. Prisoners who participate in educational programming while incarcerated are 43% less likely to return to prison, according to a 2013 report from the Rand Corp. And taking those classes made them 13% more likely than those who didn't participate to get jobs upon release.Already, about two-thirds of incarcerated adults have graduated from high school, according to Vera.

But conversations at a Vera Institute event last week in Washington among officials at colleges offering the programs and the corrections officers overseeing them drew attention to the array of challenges facing efforts to expand the system formally.

Read the full article about Second Chance Pell grants by Wayne D'Orio at Education Dive.