EAST MOLINE, Ill. (WCIA) — Many college students returned to classes the past week, including students not attending in a traditional sense.

Thirty full-time students are enrolled in the Augustana Prison Education Program at East Moline Correctional Center. The program is the first “Second Chance Pell Experimental Site” in the State.

The Augustana Prison Education Program launched in 2021 as the first program of its kind. Now in its second year, the Second Chance Pell Initiative provides prison education to allow the students at East Moline Correctional Center to receive Pell grants.

It is the first program of its kind.

“Pell restoration is a tremendous opportunity to expand partnerships between colleges and correctional agencies to deliver high-quality education to individuals in custody,” Rob Jeffreys, Director of IDOC, said. “The work of Dr. [Sharon] Varallo, her team of educators, and staff at East Moline Correctional Center was essential to establishing the robust and effective program that exists today. Launching a Second Chance Pell site is an important step to prepare IDOC for full restoration next year.”

Officials said some studies have shown that postsecondary education programs offered in prisons are effective at lowering prison costs because students are less likely to reoffend. Those studies have also found participants are also more likely to have better employment after release.

“East Moline is proud to partner as an arm of IDOC with Augustana in this collaborative agreement. The coursework is challenging, and we have seen the growth that has led to a more competitive entry into our second cohort.” Amber Allen, Assistant Warden of Programs at East Moline Correctional Center, said. “We look forward to what the future holds as Pell grants will likely increase opportunities for individuals in custody to receive a post-secondary education.”

Officials said that IDOC works with Illinois stakeholders and national experts to prepare for complete Pell restoration in 2023. They are anticipating a second launch with Lewis University in 2023.