You need to know which convictions limit your eligibility for financial aid. You also need to know what you can do about it.
There is a misconception that no ex-offenders are eligible for financial aid. In fact, many people with felony convictions can receive financial aid but don't apply. They miss their chance to go to college based on wrong information.
The first step to getting federal financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA helps determine if you can get financial aid. It also determines how much aid you are eligible to receive.
To be eligible to receive federal student aid, you must meet these requirements:
It's that last requirement that is problematic for some ex-offenders.
If you were convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs and the offense happened while you were enrolled in school and receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study), your eligibility to receive federal student aid is suspended.
You might still qualify for financial aid from another source such as scholarships, or funds from the school.
However, if you were convicted before you enrolled in school and were not receiving federal financial aid at the time, you are NOT automatically ineligible to receive federal student aid now.
The FAFSA Drug Conviction Worksheet (815k, .pdf) will help you determine your eligibility. The worksheet will direct you to complete the FAFSA online.
On the FAFSA form, there is a question that asks:
"Has the student been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while the student was receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study)?"
Use the FAFSA Drug Conviction Worksheet to help you respond. Your answer will be one of the following:
Your eligibility for federal student aid is not affected.
2. Yes (partially during the year)
You are partially eligible. You will become eligible for federal aid during the school year. You can become eligible earlier in the school year if you complete an acceptable drug rehabilitation program.
3. Yes/Don't Know Ineligible/Don't know
You are not eligible for federal aid for this school year unless you complete an acceptable drug rehabilitation program. You may still be eligible for state and school aid.
Even if you are not eligible for federal aid, you may be eligible for state or school financial aid.
If you become eligible for federal financial aid (for example, if your eligibility date arrives or if you complete an acceptable drug rehabilitation program), notify the financial aid administrator at your school.
If you are convicted of possessing or selling drugs after you submit your FAFSA, you must notify your financial aid administrator immediately. You will lose your eligibility and be required to pay back all aid you received after your conviction.
An acceptable drug rehabilitation program must:
Talk with your Parole Officer or health care provider to help you find an acceptable program.