In general, a criminal conviction means that eligibility for federal student aid is limited. The type of conviction and current incarceration status usually determines what a person can qualify for.
Current inmates in federal or state institutions are not eligible for federal Pell Grants or federal student loans. Once released, however, the eligibility restriction is removed. It is recommended that an inmate who wishes to attend school apply for aid using a Free Application for Federal Student Aid while still incarcerated, so any student aid awarded is available upon release. However, a person who was convicted of a sexual offense and is currently under a civil commitment is not eligible for a federal Pell Grant.