Financial Aid for Criminal Justice Students
Now that you’ve decided to pursue a degree in criminal justice, how will you pay for it? The costs of college include tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, and perhaps even transportation, parking, or childcare.
Fortunately, several financial aid options exist that may help you afford college, including scholarships and grants, which don’t need to be paid back. Other types include work-study, which allows you to earn income working on campus, and student loans.
Financial aid can come from federal, state, school, or private sources. This page will discuss three ways to finance your criminal justice education: loans, grants, and work-study programs.
Federal Financial Aid
This page will cover three types of federal student aid:
You should determine whether your selected program participates in federal student aid programs before you apply; most accredited criminal justice programs across the country do, although financial aid application processes may differ.
Federal Student Loans
Loans are a type of financial aid that must be repaid with interest. A federal student loan is offered and administered by the federal government, and the student must pay back the borrowed money at a low, fixed interest rate. Loans are provided to dependent and independent criminal justice students who are enrolled (or who are planning to enroll) at least half time in school.
Federal student loans have the following benefits:
Four types of federal student loans are offered to criminal justice students:
|Type of Loan||Description||Who is Eligible?||Total Loan Amount|
|Direct Subsidized||Limited amount, need-based loans; interest paid by the government while you are in school||Undergraduate students enrolled at least half time in school, based on financial need||No more than $23,000, may not exceed financial need|
|Direct Unsubsidized||Loans not based on need; interest accumulates while you are in school and is added to the principal||Undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree students enrolled at least half time in school||$57,500 for undergraduates, $138,500 for graduate or professional students|
|Direct PLUS||Offered to parents of undergraduate students or to graduate/professional students; requires credit check||Graduate and professional degree students; parents of dependent, undergraduate students; must have good credit||Cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received|
|Direct Consolidation||Combines multiple federal education loans into one loan, with a single monthly payment; interest rates are averaged to arrive at a fixed rate||Students with multiple loans who have graduated, left school, or dropped below half-time enrollment||All your federal education loans combined|
A federal grant is doesn’t have to be repaid and is based on need. The following federal student aid programs are based on need:
|Type of Grant||Description||Who is Eligible?||Grant Amount|
|Federal Pell Grant||Awarded to undergraduate students, amount depends on need and the cost of attendance||Undergraduates with demonstrated financial need who have not earned bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degrees. Students enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs may be eligible.||Up to $6,195 for 2019–20 award year|
|Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)||Administered by financial aid offices at participating school, not all schools participate||Undergraduates with exceptional financial need, who have not earned bachelor’s or graduate degrees. Those with Federal Pell Grants receive priority.||Up to $4,000 a year|
*Note that if you withdraw from school, you may have to pay back part or all of a federal grant.
Federal Work-Study Program
A Federal Work Study program provides on- or off-campus jobs for enrolled students with demonstrated financial need, to earn money for college. Check with the financial aid office to find out whether your school participates.
For criminal justice students, work-study opportunities are likely to emphasize civic education and relate to the field. You may work for your school on campus or off campus for a private nonprofit organization or a public agency. If you attend a for-profit school, there may be additional restrictions on the types of jobs you can do. Expect to earn at least the current federal minimum wage, though you may earn more depending on work you do and the skill set needed.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Once you’ve narrowed a potential criminal justice program, begin applying for financial aid as soon as possible. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in this process. This free application is used by nearly all two- and four-year colleges and universities for federal, state, and college-funded student aid.
Eilgibility criteria for federal student aid include:
How to Fill Out the FAFSA
Filling out the FAFSA form online can be somewhat tricky, many resources are available to help. You can even fill out the form on the mobile app “myStudentAid,” which is available for iPhone or Android.
Federal student aid is based on your or your family’s ability to pay, and your answers on the form determine whether you are considered a dependent or independent student. Dependent students report their own and their parents’ financial information while independent students report their own information and that of their spouses, if they’re married.
Even if you don’t live with your parents, if you’re considered a dependent, you still must provide the requested parental information, and a parent must sign it.
How to Submit the FAFSA
You should submit your FAFSA form as soon as possible. Most schools award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Follow these steps:
How Accreditation Can Affect Your Financial Aid
An accredited school is one that meets certain educational standards that help ensure your education meets specific criteria in your chosen field. If you attend a criminal justice school that isn’t accredited, you might not be eligible for financial aid, and your credits may not be transferable to other schools. Some employers may not hire graduates from schools that aren’t accredited. You can check prospective schools’ accreditation statuses through The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Private student loans are nonfederal loans offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and state or state-affiliated organizations. The lender sets the terms and conditions, and these loans generally are more expensive than federal loans. Here are some points to consider:
Be sure you completely understand the terms of a private student loan, so be sure to discuss all this with your lender. If you have difficulty getting the answers you need, you can also reach out to the U.S. Department of Education’s online FSA Feedback System or contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Financial Aid for Veterans and Servicemembers
If you are serving or have served in the U.S. Armed Services, are a spouse or dependent, or are a surviving family member, you may be eligible for one of several veteran and servicemember benefits, including:
Loan Forgiveness Programs
Forgiveness of a student loan means that you may not have to repay some or all of your loan. You may be able to have your federal student loan forgiven, canceled, or discharged if you qualify because of your job or other special circumstances. Also, if you took out a federal direct loan and you work for the government or a not-for-profit organization, you may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives the balance on your loans if you have made 120 monthly payments and work full-time for a qualified employer.
Paying for the Police Academy
If your criminal justice school has a degree program (such as an associate degree), you should be eligible for federal financial aid. If your courses are not part of a classes-for-credit degree program, you may be eligible for private loans that cover vocational training in criminal justice. There are many noncredit training programs for police recruits, and law enforcement and criminal justice personnel. The Career Training Smart Option Student Loan pays for professional training and trade certificate courses. Additionally, some police departments pay for police academy training in order to meet their communities’ law enforcement needs.
Other Types of Financial Aid
Other types of financial aid exist to help lower or pay for the costs of your criminal justice education:
Financial Aid Tips
It is important to be prepared for unexpected expenses for school. Keep calm and start your financial aid search early. Be sure to revisit and review the resources and options listed above.
As a recap, here are a few ways to reduce the stress of applying for financial aid: