Finding a job with a felony conviction is difficult. It is probably the biggest challenge a felon faces. For many, their old job is probably gone, and they may have to start over in a new career.
One way to begin a new career is to get additional education. This can be expensive, and felons may not have the financial resources to afford this education. However, there are ways to obtain grants and loans for that education.
This blog post will address the question of whether or not FAFSA runs a background check.
- What Is Included in a Background Check?
- What Is the FAFSA?
- FAFSA Application
- FAFSA Background Check?
- Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
- Recommended Action for Getting Financial Aid
What Is Included in a Background Check?
Being honest is a major challenge for many felons. Their criminal history can be a problem when applying for a job even if they are now committed to living an honest lifestyle.
Background information helps to determine a candidate’s:
- Past mistakes
- Financial fitness
The criminal record review conducted of a background check includes examining criminal history files for any criminal offenses, which will reveal all convictions and non-convictions, including cases not prosecuted or ones dismissed. Convictions can be reported with no time limit while a non-conviction will show up for seven years. A crime will not show up on a background check if a felon has his or her record expunged.
Running a background check for employment is not exactly the same as doing a background check when applying for student financial aid. It is similar in that the government does not want to offer funding to anyone that is not considered to be a good risk for using the money appropriately or repaying any type of student loan.
There is an emphasis in student aid on financial need and the ability to repay a student loan. Having a criminal record raises significant issues for any government agency. They want to ensure that the money is properly used and repaid in the case of a student loan.
What Is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that determines a student’s eligibility for federal student assistance and how much aid they can get. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Education and is the first step in applying for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds.
A potential student’s eligibility for federal grants and loans is based on financial need through use of the FAFSA. The FAFSA also determines eligibility for state grants and loans.
To be eligible to receive federal student aid, someone must meet the following requirements:
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security Number
- Comply with Selective Service registration, if required
- Have a high school diploma or a GED or pass an approved ability-to-benefit (ATB) test
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program at a school that participates in the federal student aid program
Other requirements include:
- Must not owe a refund on a federal grant or be in default on a federal student loan
- Must have financial need (except for unsubsidized Stafford Loans)
- Must not have certain drug convictions
The last requirement can be problematic for some felons. Felons that were convicted for possession or sale of illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid cannot receive federal aid unless they complete an approved drug rehabilitation program.
On the FAFSA form, there is a question that asks:
“Has the student been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while the student was receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study)?”
Those convicted of possessing or selling drugs after submitting FAFSA will lose their eligibility and must repay all financial aid received after their conviction. Those convicted before enrolling in school are not necessarily ineligible for aid.
The federal government will not offer federal grants and loans through FAFSA for felons convicted of any drug offense. Those with other types of convictions can receive grants and loans through FAFSA if they qualify financially. Felons who are incarcerated are also ineligible for financial aid.
Felons that have their record expunged do not have to report any conviction on the FAFSA.
Many types of student financial aid are restricted for felons. However, felons can qualify through the FAFSA under certain conditions. Most will probably qualify for financial assistance since their finances are typically limited.
Felons cannot be incarcerated in a federal or state prison during the time they would receive federal aid. For felons convicted of a drug offense, they can regain eligibility for the grant by completing an approved drug treatment program or successfully pass two random drug tests from an approved drug rehabilitation program.
Those with two convictions for sale of illegal drugs will have their eligibility restricted indefinitely. For possession of drugs, three convictions will result in indefinite ineligibility for student aid.
FAFSA Background Check?
No, the FAFSA does not run a background check. It relies on a student applicant to truthfully answer the question regarding any drug conviction.
Being convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs and if the offense happened while enrolled in school and receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study), someone’s eligibility to receive federal student aid is suspended.
He or she might still qualify for financial aid from another source such as scholarships or funds from the school.
However, if an applicant was convicted before he or she enrolled in school and was not receiving federal financial aid at the time, he or she is not automatically ineligible to receive federal student aid now.
The FAFSA Drug Conviction Worksheet will help determine eligibility. The worksheet will direct an applicant to complete the FAFSA online. All questions on the FAFSA regarding criminal history must be answered truthfully. If financial aid is offered, not being honest will immediately disqualify him or her.
Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
Doing a background check on him or herself before applying for student financial aid through the FAFSA will allow a felon to know exactly what will be discovered if a review is done. A felon with any questions can contact an attorney. It is essential to take action and not risk a chance on the results.
There are different kinds of personal background checks that a felon can run:
- From the court in which he or she was charged
- A credit report will help determine how financially responsible an individual is
- Driving records for any job involving driving, such as a truck driver
- An educational report through the National Student Clearing House
For someone wanting to do a background check on themselves, there are places that can help.
Recommended Action for Getting Financial Aid
It is never a good idea to lie about one’s past on an application. This could result in not being considered for financial aid if a government agency finds out about it. Take responsibility for past actions and explain how he or she is putting life in order. Doing his or her own background check allows a felon to know what a government agency will see on his or her record.
He or she must be willing to seeing him or herself in a different light and ready to establish an honest life. The best opportunity for success in a new life begins with having support from family and friends.
So what do you think about this blog post about whether or not FAFSA runs a background check? Have you or someone you know applied for financial aid through the FAFSA? What was that like and was he or she successful in receiving it? Please tell us in the comments below.