Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant?

Academics play a major role in helping people build their careers. Often, the types of courses we excel in or have a strong interest will guide career choices.

Sadly, many felons find their careers upset when imprisoned. Losing time this way can mean having to start over when released. And if it is in a highly competitive field, chances of success can wane.

Going back to school is a good way to rebuild your resume and update your skills. But most post-high school education is costly. So you may be wondering, can a felon qualify for a Pell Grant?

Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant

Grants and scholarships are good ways to cut down on some of the expenses that come with a college degree. Many students will often cover the balance through the use of loans.

Loans can however prove to be a lengthy burden. The number of years it takes to repay and the interest that accrues can be shocking. It can even affect your ability to afford decent housing.

So, where possible, grants and scholarships must be maximized to minimize this load. Let’s first delve deeper into why pursuing an education is relevant to felons.

Why Furthering Your Education Matters?

Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant Education

As suggested, felonies can have a terrible effect on career ambitions. These convictions typically attract prison sentences of over a year. Being out of the job market that long can take its toll.

Not to mention that having a criminal record can mean facing bias. This is often seen on the work front during the hiring process and promotions.

Felons are often judged based on their criminal past. They are seen as less worthy than job candidates without a record.

Furthering your education is a good way to prove your resolve, ambition, and diligent nature. Chances are you will still need to hold down some low-level jobs to pay your bills. Much respect is given to those that manage to juggle work and academics.

In certain fields, returning to school is a must to keep up with evolving trends and training. With jobs that continually add new skills and knowledge, a few years’ absence can make you obsolete. Refreshing your training and regaining licenses becomes crucial.

Will it be easy? No. just as with trying to find decent jobs, you will find obstacles in your way.

Is it worth it? Yes. A good education will provide you a firm base on which to help rebuild your life.

So, how can you afford it? Let’s discuss how you can get help with a Pell grant.

What Is a Pell Grant?

Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant What

A Pell Grant is a federal student aid program that assists with the cost of college tuition. This need-based program can provide as much as $6,000 a year in aid.

It is targeted at undergraduate students looking to enroll in a college or technical school. Those enrolling in post-baccalaureate programs leading to a teaching qualification may also qualify.

Because it is a grant and not a loan, repayment is not required. There is however a certain criterion to be met to qualify. Also, note that the grant can only be provided for up to 12 semesters.

Luckily for felons, their convictions do not inevitably disqualify them. Certain offenses can however limit access or entirely disqualify an applicant.

Applicants do however have to prove their need for financial aid. Unlike scholarships, it is not pegged on academic or athletic ability.

A comparison is made between the cost of the program being pursuing and any family contribution. The level of support will also be determined by whether you will study full or part-time. And if you attend the full academic year.

There are over 5,400 schools that participate in this program, providing ample opportunities.

Applicants are expected to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information they provide will help determine the amount of aid they get.

In FAFSA, applicants provide information such as:

  • Personal income (if independent)
  • Parents income and assets (if a dependent)
  • Percentage of net assets

Other parts of the assessment will vary depending on whether the applicant is independent or dependent.

Who Qualifies for A Pell Grant

Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant Who

Aside from the requirements mentioned above, applicants must also meet federal student aid eligibility. This includes:

  • Being a U.S. citizen, or eligible non-citizen
  • Provide a valid social security number
  • Have graduated high school, or earned a G.E.D. certificate
  • Submit to selective service registration. This is required of males who must register if between the ages of 18-25.
  • Be already accepted into an eligible degree program as a regular student
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress

When completing FAFSA, applicants should not be owing on any federal student loan or grant. This form must be completed every year you are in school to remain eligible for aid.

Under certain cases, you may qualify for additional aid. This can apply to students whose parent died in the line of duty while serving in the military. There is an age criterion and the parents must have died in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11.

Your eligibility may be recalculated or you may qualify for a different grant. Do consult with your financial aid office.

How Felons Can Secure a Pell Grant

Can a Felon Qualify for a Pell Grant How

To qualify for a Pell Grant, a felon must already be out of prison. You can however apply while still on the inside, if you will be out by the time school starts.

As mentioned, some offenses are excluded from this benefit. Drug-related offenses will affect your eligibility. So too will forcible or non-forcible sexual offenses that resulted in involuntary civil commitment after imprisonment.

While there is no recourse for sexual offenses, there is some leeway with drug cases. Eligibility is suspended if the drug offenses took place while you received federal student aid.

It can however be regained by successfully joining and completing an approved drug rehab program. Alternatively, you can submit to 2 random drug tests administered by an approved drug rehab program.

Once you succeed, you can return to the financial aid office. They can then advise you on what aid you qualify for.


If for some reason you do not qualify or receive less aid than you need, search wider. There are many grants and scholarships out there.

The state and schools administer many such programs. You can also look up private grants and scholarships. Be sure to keep checking on available opportunities each year, as offers often change.

As a last resort, you can also consider taking a student loan. This may be a tough commitment. But if you are working towards a profitable career, simply consider it an investment in the future.

And, the earlier you get on with this the better. You can even start while still in prison. This ensures that you have the aid ready when it comes time to begin school.

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