With recent legislation that has relaxed some drug laws in certain states, it is important for college students to make sure they understand Federal Student Aid (FSA) eligibility in regard to drug convictions. Unfortunately, illegal drugs are pervasive throughout college campuses and neighborhoods throughout the country. There are not only serious legal ramifications for being convicted of the distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs, but there are also serious ramifications in regard to FSA eligibility. The following points highlight important information that all college students should know.
- It is extremely important to realize that “Any federal state drug conviction, whether it be for the possession, conspiring to sell, or sale of illegal drugs, can disqualify a student from receiving federal student aid grants and loans” (Mayotte, pg. 1). Every situation may be unique, but there is an extremely good chance that if you are convicted of an illegal drug-related crime, you will lose your FSA eligibility.
- FSA eligibility is based on conviction, not arrest. A student can only potentially lose their FSA eligibility if they are actually convicted of the illegal drug-related crime. Also, loss of FSA eligibility is not retroactive; rather, a student would only lose any FSA eligibility after a conviction.
- Some states, such as Colorado and Washington, have relaxed marijuana laws. However, if you are convicted of an illegal-drug related crime in a different state, but want to attend school in Colorado, you could still lose your FSA eligibility.
- FSA loss of eligibility is no longer permanent for illegal drug-related crimes. Since 2009, the Department of Education now states that an illegal drug conviction carries a loss of “eligibility for federal aid for one year for the first offense, two years for the second offense, and indefinitely for the third” (Mayotte, pg. 1).
- For any student that loses FSA eligibility after an illegal drug conviction, they can regain their eligibility by completing a “qualified drug rehabilitation program” (Mayotte, pg. 1). The minimum requirement is that a student must pass two unannounced drug tests to regain eligibility.
As with many things in life, one poor decision can lead to major negative consequences. It is always a good idea just to be mindful of how damaging an illegal drug conviction can be. Even outside of the legal ramifications, students can face serious consequences when it comes to their FSA eligibility.
Mayotte, B. (2015). Drug Convictions can Send Financial Aid up in Smoke. USNews. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/2015/04/15/drug-convictions-can-send-financial-aid-up-in-smoke.
By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS