Everyone knows that many college students receive federal financial aid for college, right? Well, here's a wrinkle that catches some people by surprise: incarcerated students can get this funding too—with some caveats, of course.
Who Isn't Eligible?
There are a few overarching rules when it comes to aid eligibility for incarcerated students, so let's cover those first:
- No one incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution can receive federal student aid.
- Students subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a sexual offense are not eligible.
- All imprisoned students are ineligible for federal student loans during the time of their incarceration.
What Type Of Federal Aid Can These Students Receive?
Incarcerated students may receive Pell grants provided they meet all Pell grant requirements. However, while some students may receive these grants, they cannot receive aid for their living expenses. That means they may not necessarily receive the full Pell grant amount ($5,815 for the 2016-2017 academic year)..
Instead, these students may only receive Pell grants up to the cost of their tuition and fees and, if required, books and supplies. They could not receive a Pell grant refund for additional living expenses.
What Makes An Incarcerated Student Eligible For Aid?
Where someone is incarcerated determines if he or she may have access to federal student aid. Jails, penitentiaries, and correctional facilities under the jurisdiction of local or county governments are not considered federal or state institutions. Therefore, students incarcerated in these may receive Pell grants if otherwise eligible.
Public and private juvenile justice facilities are not considered federal or state penal institutions—regardless of what government entity operates them. To be considered a juvenile justice facility in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Education, the youth at that institution must:
- Be accused of committing a delinquent act.
- Have been adjudicated delinquent.
- Are determined to be in need of supervision.
Individuals detained or confined to these facilities may take college classes and receive federal Pell grants, if they meet all of the other qualifications for this aid.
How To Apply
Like other students looking for federal financial aid, incarcerated students will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The fastest, most efficient way to apply is with the FAFSA on the Web online; however, some incarcerated students may have limited or no access to the internet. If this happens to you, ask the school providing your program for a paper FAFSA.
Your school should be able to assist you in completing the form if needed, although one question does often trip students up: When completing the FAFSA, list your address as the location of the institution where you are incarcerated.