To be eligible for federal funds for college you must:
- Have a high school diploma or GED, or have taken an ability to benefit test.
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security Number
- Be registered with Selective Service (if required)
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress once in school
- Be working toward a degree or certificate
- Qualify for financial need (except for certain loans)
- Not have a drug conviction on your record (call 1-800-433-3243 regarding this question)
Student Eligibility Requirements
Federal student aid is distributed on a need-based system. That means the students who make very little income get first dibs on the money, especially Pell Grants. You must have a very low income to qualify for this type of free money, but other financial aid packages are available to students who simply cannot afford the high cost of tuition.
Criminal Records and Financial Aid
If you have a criminal record, you might still be able to get a federal loan or grant. The Higher Education Act of 1965 states that any student who has been convicted of drug possession or sales during the time they were receiving loan or grant money may lose their federal aid.
In case you do have a conviction, you must contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center. Their phone number is 1-800-4-FED-AID. They may be able to help you or tell you how the law affects your aid status. One way to get back your money is to go through a rehab program or pass some drug tests. Someone who is a sexual offender may not receive Pell Grants.
If you have a drug offence or a sexual offence on your record, fill out the FAFSA to see which loans you might still be eligible for. Federal loans are probably ruled out, but you can still get private loans or state loans. When your case status changes, speak to your school’s financial aid office to see if you can reinstate your aid money.
Non-Citizens and Federal Student Aid
Ordinarily, only U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or U.S. permanent residents can get federal student aid. However, you may still get federal aid if you are an eligible non-citizen. Someone with status as a refugee, an “asylum granted,” a Cuban or Haitian with a pending status, a victim of human trafficking, or a parolee may be eligible.