Students with criminal convictions have limited eligibility for federal student aid.

Make sure you understand your status, and don’t assume you can’t get aid.

Students With Criminal Convictions

Your eligibility for federal student aid can be affected by incarceration and/or the type of conviction you have.

If I’m incarcerated, can I get federal student aid?
If I’m on probation or parole, can I get federal student aid?
Is it true that drug convictions might affect my ability to get federal student aid?
What other convictions might affect my aid?


If I’m incarcerated, can I get federal student aid?

You have limited eligibility for federal student aid.

If you are in a federal or state institution

you can’t get a Federal Pell Grant or federal student loans

you can get a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS), but you probably won’t because

  • priority for FSEOGs must be given to those students who also will receive a Federal Pell Grant (for which you’re not eligible), and because
  • the logistical difficulties of performing an FWS job while incarcerated would likely be too great for you to be awarded FWS funds

If you are in an institution other than a federal or state institution

you can’t get federal student loans

you can get a Federal Pell Grant

you can get FSEOG and FWS, but you probably won’t because

  • schools are limited in the amount of FSEOG funds available, and because
  • the logistical difficulties of performing an FWS job while incarcerated would likely be too great for you to be awarded FWS funds

 

Once you’re released, most eligibility limitations will be removed. In fact, you may apply for aid before you’re released so your aid is processed in time for you to start school. However, if your incarceration was for a drug-related offense or if you are subject to an involuntary civil commitment for a sexual offense, your eligibility may be limited.

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Even if you are ineligible for federal aid, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM), because most schools and states use FAFSA information to award nonfederal aid, and you might be able to get some of those funds.


If I’m on probation or parole, can I get federal student aid?

Yes; if you are on probation or parole or living in a halfway house, you may be eligible for federal student aid. But remember, if you were convicted of a drug-related offense or if you are subject to an involuntary civil commitment for a sexual offense, your eligibility may be limited.
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Is it true that drug convictions might affect my ability to get federal student aid?

Yes; your eligibility might be suspended if the offense occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, or work-study). When you complete the FAFSA, you will be asked whether you had a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid. If the answer is yes, you will be provided a worksheet to help you determine whether your conviction affects your eligibility for federal student aid. Preview the drug eligibility worksheet.

If your eligibility for federal student aid has been suspended due to a drug conviction, you can regain eligibility early by successfully completing an approved drug rehabilitation program or by passing two unannounced drug tests administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program. If you regain eligibility during the award year, notify your financial aid office immediately so you can get any aid you’re eligible for.

If you are convicted of a drug-related offense after you submit the FAFSA, you might lose eligibility for federal student aid, and you might be liable for returning any financial aid you received during a period of ineligibility.

Find more information on this topic in a fact sheet called "FAFSA Facts for Students with Drug-related Convictions."

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What other convictions might affect my aid?

If you have been convicted of a forcible or nonforcible sexual offense, and you are subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for that offense, you cannot receive a Federal Pell Grant.
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