If you or your child has been convicted of a felony, you may believe it is the death knell to future education. While it certainly may be an impediment, it is not necessarily the end.
The simple answer is this: Most college applications do not ask about criminal history, and few conduct background checks. Those that do ask about criminal history are looking for drug or sexual assault felonies that can affect your ability to get scholarships and financial aid.
The biggest hurdle will be getting a job after you or your child gets a degree. Employers typically ask about criminal history and perform background checks, and they typically prefer candidates without a criminal history over those with one.
But one hurdle at a time.
If you or your child has been convicted in federal or state court of possession or sale of a controlled substance, you will not be able to receive government grants, loans or work assistance for a period that depends on the type of offense.
This includes a conviction for possession or sale of marijuana in federal court or in those states that have not yet legalized it, which includes North Carolina.
How does the government know? To get the aid, you have to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which asks about the applicant’s criminal history. If the answer is yes, you are provided a worksheet that helps you determine if your eligibility is threatened.
Financial aid eligibility resumes after one year for a first offense for possession, two years for the second offense and indefinitely after that.
Completion of a drug rehabilitation program, passing a drug test administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program, or having the conviction reversed or removed may change that equation.
Scholarships are much like college applications – most don’t ask about a criminal record and most don’t perform background checks, although those that do will likely prefer candidates without a criminal history.
If you have been convicted of a forcible or non-forcible sexual offence, you cannot receive a federal Pell Grant or some other student aid.