You have great grades, tons of extracurriculars, and the SAT/ACT scores you need to get into the school you want. Still, with a criminal record, your chances of going to college at all are severely hampered.
Were you aware that most colleges and universities require applicants to provide information on their criminal history, even for offenses committed as a juvenile? Many institutions require students to check a box admitting to a record, while others run background checks on their applicants.
Further, there are specific offenses that render you ineligible to apply for federal financial aid. Due to skyrocketing tuition costs, most Texas students are unable to afford a college education without some form of financial relief.
All of these factors add up to one more reason to get your Texas criminal record expunged. Fortunately, this is a viable option for many former offenders, especially for offenses committed as a juvenile.
Federal Financial Aid in Texas
As the cost of a college education continues to rise, most students rely on financial aid in order to initially pay for college. In this country, financial aid is obtained from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.
Unfortunately, in some cases, a criminal history can make you ineligible to apply.
Convictions that Disqualify Students from Financial Aid
If you have been convicted on any drug-related or sexual offense, you are automatically ineligible to apply for federal financial aid – at least temporarily.
A single drug conviction, including a misdemeanor-level offense, bars you from applying for financial aid for one year. For a second offense, you have to wait two years. If you are convicted three or more times on drug-related offenses, you are permanently barred from applying for federal financial aid.
There are no waiting periods on sex crime convictions. Whether forcible or non-forcible, you are permanently disallowed from receiving federal financial aid.
Other convictions, even for serious felonies such as embezzlement, robbery and murder do not compromise your eligibility to apply for financial aid.
Regaining Your Eligibility
For drug offenses, it may be possible to regain eligibility by completing a drug treatment program. The program must meet certain requirements, including passing two randomly administered drug tests.
Discuss this option with an experienced drug crime attorney, and find out whether this might be an option in your specific case.
Often, students serving prison terms are able to take advantage of some federal grants and federal work-study programs. However, if you are incarcerated, it may be more difficult to apply for them.
A school or prison counselor can advise you of your educational options while behind bars.
The College Application Process in Texas
Some colleges run criminal background checks on all applicants, while others require applicants to disclose their criminal histories. All told, over 60% of colleges currently consider criminal histories in the admissions process.
How a Criminal History Affects Admissions Decisions
The college admissions process is notoriously opaque, so it’s hard to say how a criminal history will weigh in on admissions decisions. Although a record is likely to hurt your chances at a very competitive school, some schools are more concerned with campus safety.
Because campus sexual violence and mass shootings are increasing and these incidents damage a university’s reputation, schools may be more concerned about applicants that have a history of violent or sexual offenses.
How to Answer Your College Application
To be on the safe side, assume that you’ll be subject to a criminal background check when you apply. Therefore, if you have a criminal record, it’s in your best interest to answer honestly when asked about it on your application.
That said, if your record has been expunged, or you committed the offense in question as a juvenile, you may not be required to disclose this. Again, address any doubts with an attorney who can advise you on what’s appropriate.
Can Texas College Applicants Get Their Records Expunged?
Fortunately, many former offenders are eligible for criminal record sealing or expunction in Texas. This is especially true of offenses committed as a juvenile.
Once your record is expunged, it will be sealed from public view, and will no longer show up on background checks. In most cases, you will no longer be required to disclose your criminal history on college and employment applications.
If you have a juvenile criminal record, you are eligible to petition for expunction as soon as you turn 18, unless you were convicted of a sex crime or domestic violence offense.
If you were convicted as an adult, you will most likely have to stay out of trouble for several years before you’re eligible to petition for expunction. An attorney can advise you of your eligibility, and guide you through the petition process.
Even if you weren’t convicted, you will still have a criminal record of your arrest and court proceedings. In this situation, you’re most likely to be immediately eligible to petition for record sealing.
Whatever the circumstances, don’t let a prior criminal history prevent you from seeking out a college education. Learn more about criminal record expunction to find out if you’re eligible, and begin the petition process.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.