Most college students and their parents are not aware that getting a drug conviction while receiving federal student aid will make a student ineligible for future federally funded grants, loans, or work-study programs. A simple conviction for possession of marijuana can derail an otherwise stellar academic career.
Possession of Illegal Drugs While Receiving Federal Student Aid
If you are convicted of possession of illegal drugs, while you were receiving federal student aid, you will be ineligible to receive federal student aid for one year from the date of conviction for a first offense and two years for a second offense. On a third and subsequent conviction for possession of illegal drugs, your ineligibility period is indefinite. You may also be required to return all financial aid you received during the period (eg. semester) that the offense was committed in.
Sale of Illegal Drugs While Receiving Federal Student Aid
If you are convicted of sale of illegal drugs, while you were receiving federal student aid, you will be ineligible to receive federal student aid for two years from the date of conviction for a first offense. On a second and subsequent conviction for possession of illegal drugs, your ineligibility period is indefinite. You may also be required to return all financial aid you received during the period (eg. semester) that the offense was committed in.
Shortening Your Ineligibility Period
There are three ways you can shorten your ineligibility period if you have been convicted of a drug offense while receiving federal student aid:
- Successfully completing an approved drug rehabilitation program that includes passing two unannounced drug tests, or
- Passing two unannounced drug tests administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program, or
- Having the conviction reversed, set aside, or otherwise rendered invalid.
If you have been deemed ineligible for federal student aid because of a drug conviction, you should consult with your school’s financial aid office to see if there is anything else you need to do to shorten your ineligibility period.
Frequently Asked Federal Student Aid Questions
What if I lie on my FAFSA?
All students seeking to receive federal student aid are required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA specifically asks if a student has been convicted of a drug offense. A person who lies on the FAFSA faces criminal penalties including fines and/or imprisonment. Lying on the FAFSA could also violate your school’s honor code policies and result in academic penalties including expulsion. Don’t lie on your FAFSA!
What about the underage use of alcohol and tobacco?
Alcohol and tobacco are not illegal drugs as defined by the federal law, so convictions for underage drinking or smoking should not affect eligibility for federal student aid.
What about drug convictions for offenses that were not during a period of federal student aid?
Drug convictions count against a student for federal student aid eligibility purposes only if they were for an offense that occurred during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving federal student aid. They do not count if the offense occurred during a period when the student was not receiving federal student aid. A drug conviction for an offense that occurred during a period where the student was not taking classes and was not receiving financial aid (eg. summer break) would not affect federal student aid eligibility.
Students need to be especially careful about drug convictions so as not to jeopardize their ability to qualify for federal student aid. Most college students cannot afford to attend school without financial aid. If you are a college student accused of a drug offense, or the parent of a college student accused of a drug offense, make sure your attorney is aware of your financial aid status and the problems that a drug conviction could cause to your academic career.
Attorney Russell Richelsoph handles criminal defense, DUI, and juvenile delinquency matters in the state of Arizona. If you need a criminal attorney who handles cases as discreetly as possible, call 480-733-6800 and ask to speak with Russ Richelsoph.