Earning a degree or vocational training are good ways to start a career. They help form the basis of knowledge that will guide your work.
Whether you are a felon or not, pursuing higher education is often worthy. Specially in some professional careers that require academic certifications. Jobs like nursing and law come to mind.
Education for felons is mostly meaningful because it helps give a leg up. With a criminal past, it can be hard to secure good jobs. But when you have boosted your resume with relevant academic accomplishments, you become a better hire.
For many felons, there are certain questions that arise when wanting to pursue further education. The first is if colleges will admit you. The other thought is what degree choice to make.
There is also the issue of finances. Going to college can be quite expensive. Government financial aid has however helped many students cover much of the costs.
Felons often have little money to spare and require such help to get through school. So it begs the questions: Can a felon get financial aid?
Let us first begin by looking at what rules to follow when making a degree choice. This should be settled so as to inform your choice of school. This choice will also need to be clearly indicated as you make your application for admission.
Making A Degree Choice
As mentioned, your choice of degree will often influence your choice of college. Not all colleges offer the same courses. So choosing what career you want to pursue will need to come first.
Even for younger felons, there can be some limits as to what career to pursue. Many professions require that qualifying degree holders acquire a state license to practice. Some licensed occupations include doctors, nurses, cosmetologists, therapists, lawyers, electricians, and teachers.
Licensing comes with both academic and ethical standards. This is to ensure a high level of competency and moral standards in the field. This licensing sometimes requires taking an exam.
The ethical aspect can be tough for felons to meet. This is due to their reputations being harmed by criminal acts.
However, the specific requirements to be met can vary greatly depending on the job and the state.
It is smart to do some research into the field you are intending to enter. Also, speak to a career guidance counselor. They will have a good idea of your chances of making it in a field with a felony record.
You can also consult with the state licensing board and existing professionals in the field. Making the choice to pursue a career you are unlikely to get licensed is unwise. You may end up wasting much time, effort, and resources that went into acquiring a now useless degree.
Also, factor in the cost of this pursuit, compared to your finances. Some degrees and colleges can be particularly costly to pursue. You may want to consider lower-level colleges that are a cheaper option.
The degrees may not be as famous as those from Ivy League schools, but should still be accredited. With cheaper tuition, you can reduce your loan burden, or even graduate debt-free.
Overcoming College Admission Rejection
Having settled on what degree to pursue and schools to apply to, admission should be your next goal. Colleges can also differ greatly in terms of how they consider felons for admission.
Many strongly support second chance initiatives and do not reject felon applicants based on criminal past. But this is often based on the severity of the offense.
Violent and sexual offenders face the greatest difficulty when it comes to gaining admission. Campus crime is a big issue for colleges and limiting access to those with criminal pasts is seen as ideal. As such, many colleges do include questions as to criminal records in their applications.
Drug offenses can also have an impact, but this relates mostly to financial aid issues. More on this later.
Felons that find themselves unable to secure admission to their college of choice do have a remedy. Online learning has become increasingly popular. People can now earn their degrees through these programs.
They can attend classes from the convenience of their home. Exams can also be sat at designated centers.
These degrees also tend to be more affordable and still well recognized. Some programs are flexible, allowing students to log in whenever they want. For felons that are also working, this can make keeping up with classes easier.
With enrollment comes the issue of financing. As said, college education, even for associate degrees, can be costly. Let’s look at what government aid resources felons can tap.
Securing FAFSA Financial Aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program provides education grants to millions of students. Grants are a form of financial aid that does not require repayment. FAFSA also offers low-interest loans that can also be put towards furthering education.
The amount a student gets will depend on several factors. The most important is demonstrating need. While there is a limit to the amount you can get, the more need, the more you get.
Many felons wrongly believe they do not qualify for this support. Thankfully, there are only a few conditions that would exclude a person from this aid. As long as you have been released, you stand a good chance of qualifying.
Basic eligibility includes:
- Being a U.S. citizen
- Having a social security number
- Register for selective service if you are a male between 18-25 years of age
- Acquired a high school diploma or GED
- Been accepted to an eligible degree or certificate program
Felons with drug convictions can be excluded from this aid. This happens if they were convicted while in school and receiving federal student aid. This suspension of aid may however be lifted if you complete an approved rehab program.
Alternative Sources of Financial Aid
Federal aid is preferred because of the low cost. The grants do not require repayment and loans offered have low-interest terms. The repayment periods are also generous.
If there is any difficulty securing this aid, there are alternatives. States also offer financial aid programs for needy students. Because funding may be limited, make a point of applying early to boost your chances.
Many schools also offer some form of assistance to needy students. This can be in the form of privately funded grants and scholarships. You can also look up other independently-run scholarship programs.
Sometimes the amounts offered can be small, but every penny counts.
Earning some form of an academic degree or certificate can be a big help in finding gainful employ. The salaries tend to be higher and there are better chances of career growth.
Think about what jobs you would want to pursue and what kind of academic qualifications they require. Work your way towards identifying suitable programs and colleges, before seeking financial aid.
Do the research and be practical in your choices. Do not be afraid to take the steps necessary to reach your goals. Education is a great way to jumpstart your ambitions and build a better future.