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Financial Aid Barriers for Students Impacted by the Justice System

Access to high quality postsecondary education offers people who are impacted by the justice system key opportunities for personal and career development. However, the cost of postsecondary education is oftentimes a barrier to enrollment. While the FAFSA Simplification Act restored federal Pell Grant eligibility for students with drug convictions and who are currently incarcerated, Pell Grants often don’t cover the full cost of attendance.

State financial aid programs can help support the cost of postsecondary education but are not always available to students impacted by the justice system.

This Policy Outline provides a high-level overview of student eligibility for state financial aid programs and highlights state and legislative examples expanding access to postsecondary education. This resource accompanies our 50-State Comparison of state financial aid eligibility policies in the largest aid programs across states.

To learn more about this issue:

  • Explore this Policy Outline on state policies to support learners impacted by the justice system.
  • Read this blog post on our 2023-25 Chair's Initiative that aims to expand education access for people impacted by the justice system.
  • Check out our Partnering for Success webinar recording featuring a panel of experts on the topic.
  • Review this 50-State Comparison of need- and merit-based state financial aid program policies.


June 20, 2024

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