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How Record Expungement Will Help Students With a Criminal Record Obtain Financial Aid

October 12, 2015

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  • Many individuals in our nation aspire to earn a college degree and pursue higher education as a starting point towards a high paying and successful career. The costs associated with many accredited U.S. Universities are extremely high, to the point that most students will need some form of financial aid along the way if they would like to pursue a college or graduate degree. Complications may arise for many individuals when they apply for Federal financial aid and realize that a criminal record may prevent them from receiving any financial assistance. The Higher Education Act (HEA) was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson over thirty years ago. The HEA established the Federal student aid programs we know today as PLUS Loans, Work-Study Programs, Perkins Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Pell Grants. In 1998 Congress enacted and amendment to the HEA that prevented thousands of would-be students from receiving Federal financial aid if they have a drug related conviction on their criminal record. Section 484, subsection R of the Higher Education Act of 1998 denies Federal student financial aid eligibility to those with drug related convictions specifically. According to Stateuniversity.com, since this law was enacted, 1 in every 400 students who apply to receive financial aid from college will be denied based on a prior drug related conviction.

    What many people do not realize is that a felony or misdemeanor conviction at the state or federal level for sexual offenses (forcible or nonforcible) as well as drug (controlled substance) possession or distribution will disqualify prospective students from federal financial aid for a period of time.

    A drug conviction on a criminal record would also affect a prospective student’s ability to obtain grants, loans, and/or work assistance. In addition, drug related convictions and some sexual offense crimes (if the case resulted in a conviction) may also limit one’s ability to get Federal student loans and it will prevent the ability to get a Federal Pell Grant. Those who are affected by this unfortunate reality will often never have the opportunity to receive Federal financial aid unless they act to expunge the prior offense from their record or wait for a specified period of time until they again become eligible.

    Related content: How to get a job with a felony

    Another interesting lesser known fact is that if you are incarcerated at a federal or state facility you will NOT be eligible for Federal student financial aid or a Federal Pell Grant but you are eligible for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) in some circumstances. Once you are released you may become eligible again for federal financial aid depending on a number of circumstances. Once on probation or parole you may be eligible for federal financial aid unless the crimes you committed were drug or sex related – in which case there are additional eligibility criteria. Furthermore, if you complete a FAFSA and you are later convicted of a drug or sex crime, you may lose any financial assistance you have been granted and be ordered to return any related awarded funds, so it would not be a wise idea to try to rush a FAFSA ahead of a pending conviction decision.

    How can you tell if this may affect your ability to obtain financial aid? Well, the Federal Student Aid department has what is knows as the FAFSA Drug Conviction Worksheet, which can be completed to determine your eligibility to receive financial assistance with a criminal record. Once you determine if you will have an issue with obtaining government financial aid, you can then determine the next steps of action to get into a school and following your career goals.

    There is hope for early financial aid eligibility in some instances for those who have been convicted of a drug related crime if they are able to expunge their criminal record or successfully complete an approved drug rehabilitation program or by passing two random drug tests through an approved program.

    At WipeRecord.com, we see many cases like this and we have a wealth of experience working with prospective students that need to seal or expunge their past offenses in order to get financial aid for their studies.

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