What You Need to Know About Financial Aid For Convicted Felons

It’s a widespread misconception that those convicted of a felony or incarcerated are no longer eligible to receive federal financial aid.

In fact, aside from a couple of exceptions, individuals with criminal convictions are eligible for full financial aid benefits. 

Financial Aid While Incarcerated in a Federal or State Institution

While incarcerated, financial aid is limited. Individuals are not eligible to receive federal student loans. It’s important to keep that grants and other forms of aid are awarded in terms of priority. There are not a lot of options at the moment for those currently incarcerated, but that doesn’t mean that education goals should be put on hold. 

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education introduced the Second Chance Pell Experiment allowing people detained in certain states to apply for Pell grants.

Also of note, starting July 1, 2023, incarcerated students enrolled in eligible programs will be eligible for Pell Grants (regardless of their crime).

Such students will be identified by:

  • Using the incarcerated student paper FAFSA
  • The address on their application matches the prison address database
  • Financial Aid Administrator identifying the student as such

Financial Aid While on Parole or on Probation

Individuals on parole, probation, or living in a halfway house are more likely to be able to receive financial aid than those who are actively incarcerated. However, for those who are subject to an involuntary civil commitment or who have been convicted of a sexual offense, financial aid eligibility may be limited. 

Financial Aid for Drug Convictions

Drug convictions no longer affect federal financial aid eligibility. 

When completing the FAFSA®, those with drug convictions will be asked about their conviction and if it happened while they were receiving federal aid. If the answer is yes, there will be an additional worksheet to fill out. The answers to these questions will not affect your eligibility. 

Convictions That Will Affect Financial Aid Eligibility

If someone has been convicted of a sexual offense, and is subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of incarceration, they will not be able to receive a federal Pell Grant. 

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