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Ready for Pell Request for Proposals

October 29, 2021

About Ready for Pell

JFF is excited to announce a request for proposals inviting colleges and postsecondary systems to apply for grants of up to $125,000 as part of the Ready for Pell initiative.

JFF has partnered with Ascendium Education Group to increase postsecondary opportunities for students who are incarcerated through the new Ready for Pell initiative. Ready for Pell is designed to support and strengthen postsecondary education in prison programs in advance of the full restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for people in prison, coming in the 2023-24 academic year.

“For these recently established programs planning to leverage Pell as a new funding source, now is a critical time to build a strong foundation for supporting students and ensuring quality,” said Amy Kerwin, Ascendium’s vice president–education philanthropy.

“The outcomes from this initiative have the potential to scale and transform postsecondary education for learners who are incarcerated, benefitting those individuals, their future employers, and the public at large,” said JFF Associate Vice President Lucretia Murphy, who is leading the project for JFF.

A Message from Rebecca Villarreal of Ascendium

About the Request for Proposals

Awarded grantees will receive up to $125,000 and technical assistance from JFF, the CSG Justice Center, and other subject matter experts.

Eligibility – Individual Institutions: Title IV eligible institutions that do not currently administer Pell in the postsecondary education in prison programs for which they are applying

Eligibility – Postsecondary Systems: Community college, four-year college, or university system offices with a minimum of two institutions that meet the institution eligibility requirements

Expected Number of Grantees: 20 to 30 institutions (including the individual colleges in the system’s cohort)

Proposal Length: 10 pages, double-spaced

Funding Range and Time Frame:

  • $100,000 to $125,000 for individual institutions
  • $50,000 for college systems to support a coordinating function
  • Funding can be used over two years

Project Duration: Two years (December 2021 to December 2023)

Proposal Deadline: November 24, 2021

Decisions Announced: December 17, 2021

Submit Proposals to:

Learn more in JFF's Request for Proposals
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Learn more about eligibility, requirements, and how to apply in the request for proposals. Please feel welcome to share this opportunity with anyone in your network who may be interested in applying.

Contact us at with any questions or to submit your application.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. We currently administer Second Chance Pell. Are we eligible for this grant?


  2. Is there a limit to how many colleges can apply per system?

    No, there is no limit on the number of colleges that can apply per system; however, every institution should submit a separate application.

  3. The RFP says that applicants must be “Title IV eligible institutions that do not currently administer Pell in their postsecondary education programs in prison.” Does this mean administer Pell to incarcerated students or college students in general?

    Institutions that have used Pell for students who are incarcerated are not eligible.
    Institutions that have used Pell for students who are not incarcerated are eligible.

  4. Is this initiative designed for institutions that have already started a program within a correctional facility? If we are in the process of planning to implement a program, are we eligible?

    This is for institutions that have a partnership with a correctional facility. Programs in the planning stage are eligible to apply.
  5. Our institution has applied for the third round of Second Chance Pell funding, but has not yet received or utilized any Second Chance Pell funding. Are we eligible to apply?


  6. If we have unspent funds that were budgeted for Year One, but not spent in Year One, can we roll that amount over into the budget for Year Two?

    Yes, you can spend funds across the years as relevant, as long as your institution stays within the total amount budgeted over the full grant period.

  7. In the budget template, if separate line items are allowed, can money be shifted from one line item to another?

    Yes, we encourage your institution to apply the money over the course of the two years as you see fit.

  8. Do letters of support and bios count towards the ten-page limit?

    No, they do not.

  9. Should the system application and the individual college applications for the cohort be submitted together?

    That is preferred, but it is not required.

  10. We are collaborating with another institution to deliver one program. Do we need to submit a single application or two?

    If you are collaborating with another institution to deliver one program, only one application is needed for a maximum grant of up to $125,000.

  11. We are a coordinating board, not a governing board for a community college system. Are we still eligible to apply? Yes, coordinating boards and governing boards are eligible to apply. In your application, please describe the level of buy-in and support from the governing board you work with.
  12. Our institution has received a waiver for Second Chance Pell from the Department of Education. Are we eligible to apply?

    No, you are not eligible to apply.

  13. We are partnering with a regional correctional facility that does receive some state funding. Would this be a permissible partner under this funding opportunity?

    Yes, as long as you are able to administer Pell to students who are incarcerated in this facility in 2023.

  14. We are working with a coalition that includes multiple schools, including two Second Chance Pell sites. Are we eligible to apply?

    The Second Chance Pell sites are not eligible to apply for individual grants, but the schools that are not Second Chance Pell sites are eligible to apply. If you are applying as a coalition, a single institution should submit the application to represent the work of the coalition.

  15. We don’t have prisons in our service area, but we do have local county jails (adults and juveniles) which are more short term. Does that qualify?

    County facilities are not eligible. Only federal and state prisons are eligible.

  16. Would colleges be able to include the cost of tuition, fees, and books as part of the Ready for Pell proposal?

    No, this funding cannot be used for tuition and fees.

  17. We are a Title-IV-eligible institution, but we are not a two- or four-year-degree-granting institution. Can you confirm that we are eligible to apply for the Ready for Pell Initiative grant?

    Yes, since you are a Title IV institution, you are eligible to apply, as long as you are not currently administering Pell for your prison education programs.

  18. Can we use grant funds to pay for staff to study the feasibility of administering Pell in a prison in education program?

    This grant is for current systems offices or institutions that do not currently administer Pell in their prison in education programs. While we are considering applications from institutions that are in the planning phase, they must be individual institutions that plans to administer Pell in their prison in education programs. We are unable to fund feasibility work at this time.

  19. Can we include indirect costs in our budget?

    Yes, indirect costs are allowable and are capped at 15 percent of direct costs.
  20. Can we use grant funds to create new staff positions?

    Funding for personnel is generally not allowable. If the institution wants to use the funds for a personnel position to support capacity building efforts, the institution must: (1) describe how the position builds capacity for Pell readiness or student supports, (2) describe how the institution will sustain the position after the grant ends, and (3) provide an institutional match for the portion of the salary that will be covered by the grant funds.

  21. Are there funds available to purchase secure laptops for the students to use for the prison classes?

    No. This funding cannot be used to pay for laptops.

  22. Is the in-person meeting in 2023 charged to the grant or does JFF cover the travel costs?

    These expenses would be charged to the grant.

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