If you're like many New Jersey college students, the idea of paying for four years (or more) of post-secondary education seems impossible unless you obtain financial aid. After all, this isn't Europe, where college education is often free. Given the fact that financial aid may be crucial toward helping you achieve your college goals, it's important to know that there are several things that may impede your ability to qualify for financial assistance, one of which would be a criminal conviction.
If a police officer charges you with a felony, you'd definitely not be the first student to face such challenges; however, if things don't go your way in court and the judge hands down a conviction, your hopes for financial assistance may fly right out the window. If you understand the possible ways criminal charges and convictions may negatively affect loan eligibility and you know where to seek help if a problem arises, you may be able to get back on track to bring your college dreams to fruition.
Incarceration location matters
Should authorities send you to a federal or state incarceration facility following any type of criminal conviction, you would no longer qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. Being incarcerated doesn't disqualify you from a Federal Work-Study but the chances of being able to overcome the logistical challenges of participating in the program while in jail are little to none. Also, Federal Work-Study preferences typically go toward those who have already received Federal Pell Grants, for which you would become ineligible as soon as you enter a federal or state detention facility.
Federal Pell Grant eligibility possible in certain circumstances
If you are serving time in a detention facility that is not a federal or state prison, you would not necessarily lose your eligibility to apply for a Federal Pell Grant. However, you would not be able to secure federal student loans in such circumstances. Some incarcerated college students apply for financial aid while they are still serving their sentences if they can properly gauge the time they will be released, and thereby eligible to receive a particular grant or loan once they're freed.
Avoiding conviction is best way to maintain eligibility
The best way to prevent financial aid problems with regard to any criminal charges you currently face may be to successfully avoid conviction so you do not have a permanent criminal history that would negatively affect your ability to obtain financial assistance for college. Other New Jersey residents have been able to build strong defenses against criminal charges by allowing experienced attorneys to act on their behalves in court.