The Effect of a Conviction for Illegal Drugs on Student Loans and Work-Study Programs

If a student is convicted of either possessing an illegal drug or selling an illegal drug, the conviction will prevent the student from receiving funds from a Federal student aid program. The conviction will only render the student ineligible if they are convicted when the student is receiving aid. Therefore, if the person receives a drug conviction prior to receiving student aid, it will not render the person ineligible to receive student aid. Under the law, a person is considered to be “receiving student aid” on the day that classes start and will include holiday breaks. However, summer breaks do not count as a period of time that the student is “receiving aid” unless the student is enrolled in summer classes.

What happens if I’m convicted for an illegal drug offense when I’m receiving Federal student aid?

The length of ineligibility is determined by two factors: First, whether it is the student’s first conviction, second conviction, or third (or more) conviction. Second, whether the student was convicted of possessing illegal drugs or selling illegal drugs. See the below table for the lengths of ineligibility:

Offense Possession of Illegal Drugs Sale of Illegal Drugs
First 1 year of ineligibility from date of conviction 2 years of ineligibility from date of conviction
Second 2 years of ineligibility from date of conviction Indefinite period of ineligibility
Third or more Indefinite period of ineligibility Indefinite period of ineligibility

How can I resume receiving Federal student aid after an illegal drug conviction?

Even though a student will not be able to completely avoid ineligibility after a drug conviction, there are ways that a student can shorten the length of ineligibility (including an indefinite period of ineligibility). This can be accomplished by passing two unannounced drug tests, completely a rehabilitation program with drug tests, or having the drug conviction reversed.

Is there any way I can avoid a period of ineligibility if I’m arrested for possessing an illegal drug?

Yes! If the student is charged by a ticket or an ordinance violation, the payment of these types of charges do not count as a conviction. In order for it to count as a drug conviction, the student must appear before a judge or a jury on a misdemeanor or felony case. In addition, if the student receives a sentence of “court supervision,” the student can avoid a conviction if he or she complies with the conditions imposed by the judge or prosecutor. After the successful completion of court supervision, the case will end with a dismissal and not a conviction. It is always advisable to hire a lawyer to ensure that the case is handled properly for the best chance of avoiding a conviction for a drug charge.