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Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant?

Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant

The U.S. government imposes a lot of restrictions on a convicted felon. Life after a felony is a considerable challenge. After imprisonment, offenders have to decide how to proceed with their lives. Many choose to find employment immediately. But, some choose to go towards the educational line. Gaining higher education will provide a felon with an advantage while looking for a job.

But some people cannot afford the cost of education at school or college. Recently released felons may not have the financial resource.

The U.S. Federal Government provides many aids or grants to students. Especially for those who cannot afford to go to school or college. The Pell Grant Program is one such program. But, can a felon qualify for a Pell Grant?

Many types of student financial aid indeed have restrictions for felons. However, offenders can qualify for a Pell Grant under specific terms and conditions.

Why Completing Your Education Matters?

For those who are wondering, why bother with education when it is so costly? Or how education is going to help with our job?

Most employers do not hire felons due to their records. Leading an everyday life gets pretty hard for a felon. A felon has to face many difficulties while getting a job. Offenders are often judged based on their criminal past.

This is why completing your education is the right choice. It proves your determination, ambition, and hard-working nature. This also shows that you have learned from your mistakes and are aiming for improving your life.

A degree or higher education will give you a firm base while looking for a job. It will also help you in getting a decent job.

Will it be easy? No. The life of a felon is never easy. You have to work extra hard to rebuild your life. But, rest assured, it will be worth it.

So, let’s discuss how a felon can afford education with the help of Pell Grant.

What Is A Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is a kind of allowance. The U.S. federal government provides this money. These financial aids are for the students who need them to pay for college. Federal Pell Grants are usually for undergraduate students with low-income backgrounds. These grants, generally, does not have to be repaid.

can felon qualify for a pell grant

That’s why they are highly desirable to students from a low-income background. The college or the institution applies the grant to cover tuition, fees, and the room. The student will get the left-over money. The student can use this money for buying books, living expenses, transportation, etc.

General Eligibility Criteria for Federal Pell Grant

There are some general criteria you need to meet for any kind of Federal Student Aid. The requirements are:

  • You must show a legitimate financial need. (for most programs).
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen (For example- a U.S. National or a permanent resident).
  • You need to have a valid social security number.
  • For a male, between the age of 18 and 25, you must have registration with U.S. Selective Service.
  • You must have an acceptance or enrolment in an eligible undergraduate degree program.
  • Maintain a satisfactory GPA while enrolled in the program.
  • The applicant should have a high school diploma or GED Certificate.
  • You need to verify that you are not in default on a federal student loan.
  • The applicant must also verify that you will use federal aid only for educational purposes.
  • You have to show that you don’t already have a post-secondary degree.

The Department of Education (DOE) determines if you are eligible for Pell Grant or not. To decide on your financial need, they look at your family’s income and expenses. Income includes your parent’s or guardian’s, as well as yours. You also need to show your savings, property, and assets.

How Can Felons Secure A Pell Grant?

There is a widespread misconception that felons are not qualified for a Pell Grant. This is not true. Not all felonies or misdemeanors stops you from receiving federal aid. But as stated above, there are some terms and conditions. They are:

  • Felons who are still in prison are not qualified for Pell Grant. You are only eligible after your get released from jail. However, you can apply while you are still in prison. So, you can receive the money immediately after your release. This will help you to pay for the school or college fee on time.
  • Some offenses will make you ineligible for Pell Grant. Two types of convictions will automatically disqualify you. They are drug convictions and sex offenses.

Is A Drug Convict Eligible For Pell Grant?

If you had a drug conviction, you should check out the FAFSA fact sheet. The FAFSA Facts for Students with Drug-related Conviction. The guides state that you may have to undergo a suspension for federal aid. It also states that drug convictions can suspend your eligibility for federal assistance.

But you can regain eligibility by:

1 Completing a drug rehabilitation;

2 Pass two random drug tests. An authorized drug rehabilitation program is the one that conducts these drug tests.

Students who regained eligibility can receive a federal grant for the current semester even if it has started already.

can felon qualify for pell grant

And also, your eligibility might get suspended under certain situations. Like, if the offense took place while you were receiving federal student aid. However, you can regain the grant. This happens after you complete the above-mentioned process.

For a first offense, the period of ineligibility is one year for possession of illegal drugs. For the sale of illegal drugs, it’s two.

Suppose you commit a second offense of illegal drug possession. The ineligibility period is two years. It’s indefinite for the sale of illicit drugs.

The ineligibility period is indefinite for a similar third offense.

Sexual Offense

One disqualifying felony is a conviction of a sexual offense. Suppose your conviction is of a forcible or non-forcible sexual offense. You cannot receive a Federal Pell Grant. Some felons have a compulsory civil commitment after getting released from prison. This can make you ineligible for Federal Pell Grant.

How to Apply for Pell Grant?

To apply for Pell Grant, you will have to complete FAFSA first. [FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid]

While filling out the FAFSA form, you must always remember:

1 Provide correct information about your conviction.

2 Provide honest details about your and your family’s income.

3 Complete your application for the grant before the April deadline. Remember to apply early, as funds are limited.


Leading a life with a criminal record is difficult, to begin with. It is not easy to go back to school or college after prison. But, that does not mean you should give up. Higher education can open a lot of career opportunities for you. It will help you earn a good living.

Many felons and ex-offenders have obtained grants to go to college or schools. Do not feel helpless thinking that you cannot qualify for this financial help. The federal and state government provides funds to help felons. Several organizations offer such assistance.

So, do not let it discourage you. Keep on trying. Apply for FAFSA. Even if you are not qualified for a Pell Grant. It may help you gain access to other types of education loans and grants.

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About Eugene Casey

Eugene works in a busy employment agency in Chicago and has nearly 20 years of experience in finding clients the perfect job. His philosophy is simple, the right match for the right position is nearly always a win-win for both the employee and the company.

When he isn't working or writing for us, he enjoys cooking and exploring the United States, one state at a time.

He lives with his wife Lisa and their two German Shepherds, Wilber and Gus.

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