FAQ & Resources


1. What is the College Initiative? CI is a community of successful, positive, and supportive students, alumni, and staff dedicated to creating pathways from criminal justice involvement to college and beyond.

2. How can I meet with an academic counselor? Academic counselors meet with students at the central College Initiative office on John Jay College’s campus. Please click here if you are a new student interested in signing up to meet with an academic counselor. If an incarcerated friend or loved one is interested in obtaining more information about going to college, please have them send us a letter at:

Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College
524 West 59th Street, Suite 609B
New York, NY 10019

3. If I have never been to prison, can I still receive assistance from the College Initiative? We only work with individuals who have had involvement with the criminal justice system. This may include incarceration, probation, parole, involvement in ATI programs, and arrest without conviction.

4. Does College Initiative pay for my tuition and other expenses? We provide financial support for some of the college application costs as well as for fees associated with gathering college, high school, and equivalency transcripts. However, we do not pay for tuition. If a prospective student was incarcerated the previous year, does not have any outstanding student loans, and enrolls as a part-time or full-time student, he or she can apply for federal and New York State financial assistance. The costs of tuition and books are usually covered by financial aid. We can also help you learn about scholarships and stipends for which you might be eligible.

5. Does College Initiative pay for correspondence courses? We do not pay for correspondence courses.

6. Can I apply to colleges outside of the CUNY system and still receive assistance from College Initiative? Yes. We strongly encourage students to enroll in the CUNY system because, as a public institution, tuition is affordable and you will receive a quality education. However, we acknowledge that some students want to attend a private college or a college in the SUNY system. Wherever you choose to apply, if the program is accredited, we will be happy to assist you.



7. If I have a student loan in default, can I still receive financial aid? No. However, you will regain eligibility for Pell and TAP grants when your student loan is out of default. We will help you work with the lender to set-up an affordable payment plan. In most cases, after making six consecutive on-time payments, your loan comes out of default and you are then eligible to receive financial aid.

8. Can I receive financial assistance if I have a criminal record? Financial aid restrictions only apply to people who were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony drug offense while receiving financial aid. If the law applies to you, there are ways to lift the restrictions. To learn more, contact a CI counselor or read more on the Federal Student Aid website.

9. What careers do I need to avoid because of my criminal record? Convictions involving drugs or violence can make it difficult to get licensed as a teacher in New York City (primary and secondary education) or as a health care provider (nurse, radiologist, paramedic, veterinary technician). To learn more about these restrictions, contact the Legal Action Center.

10. Can I submit my college application while incarcerated? We recommend that you wait until you are home before applying. It is important to have your basic needs met (housing, job, etc.) before enrolling in college. Additionally, if you have been out of school for a long period of time, we can connect you with college bridge programming helpful in preparing for the CUNY placement tests. We advise prospective students to submit their college applications three to six months before the start of the next semester.

11. I am not a U.S. citizen. Do I qualify for financial assistance? If you have an F1 or F2 visa, you are not eligible for financial aid, however, if you are a U.S. permanent resident with an I-551 or I-551c form, or if you fit under one of the following immigration categories with an I-94 form, then you are eligible for financial assistance. The relevant immigration classifications include the following:

  • Indefinite parole
  • Non-citizens refugee
  • Asylum granted
  • Humanitarian parole

12. Where can I find more resources and information about reentry?

CI is one of PRI’s Educational Initiatives. The broader mission of PRI is to spur innovation and improve practice in the field of reentry by advancing knowledge, translating research into effective policy and service delivery, and fostering effective partnerships between criminal justice and non-criminal justice disciplines. PRI has a number of very useful reentry resources, including Higher Education and Reentry: The Gifts They Bring and Back to School: A Guide to Continuing Your Education After Prison

Published by the New York Reentry Education Network.

Published by the New York Public Library, Connections contains a directory of the resources available to formerly incarcerated people coming home to New York City.

The Legal Action Center is the only non-profit law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas. Their site has many guides essential to a positive and successful reentry.

The Center provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, non-profit organizations, and corrections institutions working on prisoner reentry.

A New York State-based support network and information clearinghouse on prison, reentry, and the consequences of criminal proceedings. Attorneys, social service providers, policy advocates, individuals with criminal records, family, and community members are encouraged to join for full access to the online resource library, monthly mailings, and calendar updates.