Financial Aid for Children Whose Parents Are in Prison

The amount of money prospective college students can borrow and receive in grant money often depends on how much money their families can contribute toward college costs. Having a parent in prison does not cause students to be automatically eligible or ineligible for financial aid. However, if a parent is in prison, the students may be eligible for financial aid because of a lack of a significant parental financial contribution. Before eligibility can be determined, students must document their financial need.


Documentation of Independence

For prospective students to show that they are independent of their jailed parents, they must provide documentation showing their parents are in jail and is not able to contribute to their college costs. Otherwise, the reviewer of the financial aid applications will expect to see financial records from the parent. Applicants' best bet is to show that because their parents are in jail, they are independent. Typical financial aid rules deem a student to be independent only after age 24.


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Students can apply to have their status changed from dependent to independent by providing requested documentation to the aid administrator at the college or career school they are attending. The aid administrator determines students' status, and the decision cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education. In some instances, students do not need to submit parental information with their student loan application if their parents are incarcerated.

Citizenship Eligibility

Regardless of whether their parents are in jail, students must show that they are U.S. citizens to receive financial aid loans or government grants. They also must place their Social Security number on their applications. In some instances, noncitizens may apply for financial aid if they are U.S. permanent residents.



Before they can receive financial aid, prospective students must have received a high school diploma or a GED certificate. They also must have already been accepted into an institution of higher learning. In addition to universities, students also can receive aid for studying at career colleges or technical universities. Once students begins schooling, they must show that they are making satisfactory academic progress. Failing to do so could make them ineligible for further assistance.


Own Criminal Record

Regardless of what applicants' parents do, applicants must keep a clean record to be eligible for student aid. Students who have received financial aid and then are convicted of selling or possessing drugs can have their financial aid suspended. They may regain eligibility if they can pass two unannounced drug tests. Prospective students who have been incarcerated for sexual crimes are not eligible for federal financial aid.