Pell Grants for Felons: Everything You Need to Know!

The Pell Grant is a need-based financial aid program for students pursuing postsecondary education. However, many felons are unaware that they are eligible for Pell Grants or assume that they are automatically disqualified due to their criminal record. In this article, we’ll explore the eligibility criteria for Pell Grants for felons and the benefits of pursuing higher education.

What are Pell Grants?

Pell Grants are federal financial aid programs designed to help low-income students afford postsecondary education. They are named after Claiborne Pell, a former United States Senator from Rhode Island who championed education funding. The grants are need-based, meaning that they are awarded based on the student’s financial need rather than academic performance.

Unlike loans, Pell Grants do not have to be repaid, making them a valuable resource for students who cannot afford to take on debt. In the 2021-2022 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $6,495.

Eligibility Criteria for Pell Grants for Felons

Contrary to popular belief, felons are not automatically disqualified from receiving Pell Grants. However, there are some restrictions based on the type of conviction.

Under federal law, individuals who are incarcerated in federal or state penal institutions are not eligible for Pell Grants. However, individuals who have been released from incarceration or are on probation or parole are eligible to apply.

There are also restrictions based on the type of offense. Individuals who are convicted of drug-related offenses may be ineligible for Pell Grants, depending on the date of the offense and whether they were convicted while receiving federal financial aid. Additionally, individuals who are subject to civil commitment after completing a sentence for a sexual offense are not eligible for Pell Grants.

Pell Grants for Felons
Pell Grants for Felons

Benefits of Pell Grants for Felons

For felons who are eligible, Pell Grants can be a valuable resource for pursuing postsecondary education. Higher education can improve employment prospects and increase earning potential, making it easier to reintegrate into society after incarceration.

Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of education are less likely to return to prison, making education an important tool for reducing recidivism rates. By pursuing postsecondary education with the help of a Pell Grant, felons can improve their chances of success after release.

Also Read: Can a Felon Visit Someone in Prison? A Guide to the Rules and Restrictions

How to Apply for Pell Grants for Felons

To apply for a Pell Grant, felons must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The FAFSA asks for information about the student’s income, assets, and household size to determine their financial need.

Felons should be prepared to disclose their criminal history on the FAFSA form. However, they should also be aware that their criminal record will not automatically disqualify them from receiving financial aid.

Once the FAFSA is submitted, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that indicates their eligibility for Pell Grants and other forms of financial aid. If the student is eligible for a Pell Grant, the funds will be disbursed to their school’s financial aid office, which will apply them to the student’s tuition and fees.

Also Read: Can a Felon Own a Dispensary? A Detailed Guide

Common Questions About Pell Grants for Felons

Can felons receive Pell Grants while incarcerated?

No, individuals who are currently incarcerated in federal or state penal institutions are not eligible for Pell Grants.

Will my criminal record affect my eligibility for Pell Grants?

Possibly. Depending on the type of offense and the timing of the conviction, some felons may be ineligible for Pell Grants. However, it is still worth applying to determine eligibility.

How much money can I receive through a Pell Grant?

The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2021-2022 academic year is $6,495. The amount of the award depends on the student’s financial need and enrollment status.

Can I use Pell Grants to study any subject?

Yes, Pell Grants can be used to study any subject at a participating postsecondary institution.

Can I receive Pell Grants for graduate or professional programs?

No, Pell Grants are only available for undergraduate programs. However, there are other types of financial aid available for graduate and professional students.


Felons who are interested in pursuing postsecondary education should explore their eligibility for Pell Grants. Despite the misconceptions about eligibility, many felons are eligible for financial aid through the Pell Grant program. Pursuing higher education with the help of a Pell Grant can improve employment prospects and reduce the likelihood of returning to prison. By completing the FAFSA form and seeking assistance from their school’s financial aid office, felons can take advantage of this valuable resource.

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