This Oklahoma Bill Would Allow Incarcerated Students to Access Tuition-Aid Grants

The legislation, now being considered by the state House of Representatives, would allow incarcerated students to access the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program.
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  • Oklahoma lawmakers are considering legislation to allow incarcerated students access to a state grant program.
  • That program includes $1,500 annual grants for students to attend community colleges, $2,000 for regional universities, and $3,000 for research universities.
  • The legislation passed the Oklahoma Senate in February.
  • The legislation reflects a nationwide trend toward expanding education access and financial aid for incarcerated students.

Students who are incarcerated in Oklahoma might soon have access to a state grant program, reflecting a nationwide movement to expand financial aid access in prisons.

State law currently prohibits people who are "incarcerated in a state, federal or private correctional facility" from accessing the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG). That program includes $1,500 annual grants for community colleges, $2,000 for regional universities, and $3,000 at research universities, according to

Legislation to strike that prohibition and allow incarcerated students access to the OTAG overwhelmingly passed the state Senate last month. That legislation is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Dave Rader, who told Tulsa World that expanding the grant program could help cut back on recidivism.

Federal, state, and local officials alike have moved to expand prison education in recent years — most notably via the upcoming nationwide restoration of Pell Grant access to students who are incarcerated.

Starting this July, incarcerated students will have access to Pell Grants for the first time since the federal policy was nixed in 1994, BestColleges previously reported.

That nationwide Pell Grant restoration comes after a yearslong expansion of the Second Chance Pell Experiment, BestColleges reported, which began targeted access to Pell Grants in prisons when it launched in 2015. The program helped students earn more than 7,000 credentials as of early 2022, BestColleges reported at the time.

Local officials across the country have likewise stepped up education efforts for incarcerated students.

St. Louis Public Radio reported earlier this year that St. Louis County jail detainees with a high school diploma will be able to take college credit courses through a local community college. Charleston County, South Carolina, officials opted to offer jail detainees opportunities to work toward GED certificates and associate degrees amid lengthy pandemic-related court delays, South Carolina Public Radio reported.

That focus on education often extends beyond prisons. A community college in Nashville, Tennessee, announced a $20,000 annual scholarship pool for formerly incarcerated students last year, a move that officials said in a release would cut back on recidivism.

"Higher education is a gateway to stop the revolving door of recidivism, and as a result making our communities safer and saving millions of taxpayer dollars," Julie Doochin, an educator who founded the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative for people who are incarcerated, said at the time.

Oklahoma isn’t the only state looking to emphasize higher education in prison. In Colorado, lawmakers are considering a bill that would reduce sentences for students who earn degrees while they are incarcerated or on parole for a "nonviolent felony offense."