In 1999, I was convicted of committing a series of commercial burglaries. From the moment I stepped into prison, I knew that I needed to change my trajectory. Raised in a family where attending college was an expectation, I set my sights on earning a bachelor’s degree from behind bars. Having no funds of my own, I turned to the federal Pell Grant program, which helps low-income students attend accredited colleges and universities.

To my great disappointment, I learned that incarcerated...

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