One of the most challenging aspects of being an ex-offender with a felony is successfully re-entering society after serving time. Many ex-offenders struggle with making the transition back into civilian life, which can sometimes lead to ex-offenders reoffending.

An excellent way for ex-offenders to set themselves up for success upon re-entering into society is through enrollment in an online college. By choosing to enroll in an online college, students with a felony can partake in a constructive way to spend their time that will only help them with job opportunities that can help build a stable future.

There is a lot of misinformation about the types of support and assistance that students with felonies can receive in their pursuit of an online degree. But many students with felonies are unsure of whether or not they can even attend an online college. If you’re an aspiring student an ex-offender, below you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions about enrolling in an online college.

Does being an ex-offender make it harder to be accepted to an online college?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding ex-offenders and online colleges. Many ex-offenders feel that they don’t stand a chance of making it through the admissions process with a criminal offense on their record. We’ve found that ex-offenders shouldn’t worry too much. Most online colleges won’t deny an application solely off of a potential student’s criminal record. 

Ex-offenders should expect to have to jump through additional hoops when it comes to the admissions process. Many online colleges will typically want ex-offenders to supply further information regarding their conviction. This typically includes letters from probation officers, personal statements, character references, and other documents that can paint a more detailed picture of the type of person you are after your conviction.

Do I even need to disclose my criminal history to an online college?

Some aspiring students figure that they can sidestep the entire conversation about their conviction by not disclosing it to an online college. Unfortunately, this is not always the best path.

Suppose an online college doesn’t ask any questions regarding your criminal conviction during the application process. Chances are they probably won’t find out about it, and if they do, they’ll most likely just ask you for further clarification regarding your criminal history. In that case, you don’t necessarily have to reveal that information if you’re not comfortable doing so.

But if an online college does ask you to disclose any past criminal history, you should answer this truthfully. Most online colleges, as well as traditional colleges, will have you sign a document affirming the truthfulness of your application – so omitting or lying about your criminal history will naturally go against what you have affirmed.

Can ex-offenders receive financial aid for online college?

The ticket price of a college education is often one of the most significant hurdles for students to overcome. Ex-offenders may feel this pain even more as entering back into the workforce as an ex-offender can often be challenging, and personal funds can be limited. Finding ways to reduce the cost of an online college education is often crucial for ex-offenders. 

Fortunately, ex-offenders can gain access to much of the same financial aid available to those without a criminal record – however, there are some notable exceptions. 

Students that have received a conviction but have yet to serve the entirety of their sentence are typically excluded from receiving Federal Pell Grants. This creates a cascading effect on federal financial aid, as those ineligible for Federal Pell Grants are also giving lower priority when it comes to other federal assistance.

Most of this changes upon the completion of an ex-offender’s sentence. After completing their sentence, ex-offenders are eligible for all financial aid offered by the federal government except for two significant instances.

Suppose an ex-offender was charged with a drug-related crime and received federal financial aid at the time. In that case, they are typically forbidden from receiving additional federal financial assistance. However, this can be reversed through enrollment in a drug rehabilitation program.

The other primary instance in which federal financial aid is not offered is those convicted of sexual offenses that are also subject to involuntary commitment after their sentence. 

The benefits of online college for ex-offenders

Returning to society after a prison sentence can be a tough transition. Many ex-offenders struggle with a return to the pace and rules of the outside world. An online college degree can play an instrumental role in helping ex-offenders find the structure and purpose they need to lead a successful life upon completing their sentencing.

Online colleges offer ex-offenders a way to earn a college degree in a much more economical way than a traditional college campus. The added structure of being enrolled in an online college program also can give an ex-offender something to work towards after completing their sentence.

Having a college degree is also a great thing to have when venturing out into the job market. Ex-offenders sometimes can face adversity in the job market, so having a degree is one way to help even the playing field a bit more when it comes to the job search.

Can I Attend an Online College with a Felony?

If you are an ex-offender, you absolutely can enroll in an online college. Many ex-offenders worry that their criminal history will prevent them from enrolling in an online college, and that is just not the case. Students with a criminal record can still enroll in online colleges and can still receive financial aid, except for in certain circumstances. An online college degree can be a massive benefit to those who are entering back into society. Possessing a college degree can open the door to several different opportunities. Don’t hesitate to enroll in an online college degree. Start the next chapter of your life off on the right foot and pursue your dreams of earning a degree from an online college.

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