Financial aid

How Drug Convictions Can Affect Your Federal Financial Aid

Drug-Related Crimes and Federal Financial Aid Eligibility

Every year, students across the United States file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to see if they qualify for government assistance to cover academic expenses. While it is common knowledge that factors such as family income level and citizenship are reflected in financial aid packages, many students may not have considered whether previous drug felonies and convictions would matter until they came upon FAFSA® Question 23.

Unfortunately, drug offenses can negatively impact federal financial aid eligibility, according to the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid. Our attorneys at Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A. are here to walk you through the nuances of how drug-related convictions may affect financial aid eligibility. Additionally, we can help discover what can be done to combat any unwarranted consequences.

Will a Drug Crime Lead to Immediate Financial Aid Ineligibility?

A past drug conviction may not immediately categorize a student as ineligible. Before a student is declared ineligible, the Federal Student Aid office takes a few details into account:

  • Was the conviction for the sale or possession of illegal substances?
  • When was the date of the conviction?
  • Was the student receiving federal financial aid at the time of the offense?
  • How many times was the person convicted?

These four facets are extrapolated on in the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet, which applicants are required to fill out if they answered “Yes” to Question 23 in their FAFSA® and still want to be considered for financial aid.

How Long Will Ineligibility Last?

U.S News reported in “Drug Convictions Can Send Financial Aid Up In Smoke” that an offense for illegal drug possession will affect financial aid eligibility for one year from the date of conviction, if it is the student’s only conviction. A second conviction, however, results in a two-year penalty. If there is a third conviction, then that student is indefinitely ineligible.

Likewise, the first conviction for the sale of illegal substances will result in two years of ineligibility. A second conviction will lead to indefinite ineligibility.

How Many Students Are Actually Affected?

The exact number of students affected by Question 23 is difficult to determine, as there is no precise way to determine how many people have been deterred from beginning the FAFSA® after learning about Question 23. The U.S. Department of Education does, however, record and report data for FAFSA® rejections.

This data reveals that an estimated 1,000 financial aid applicants are categorized as completely or partially ineligible on an annual basis, as reported by Insider Higher Ed.

Gaining Eligibility

The government may reinstate financial aid eligibility early, after the applicant has had the successful completion of an approved rehabilitation program or after the individual passes two random drug tests administered by one of these programs.

While some politicians and citizens are fighting to remove Question 23 from the FAFSA®, not every student can wait for that to happen. In the meantime, if you’re concerned about whether your criminal record could affect your FAFSA®, or other aspects of your schooling, we encourage you to reach out to our firm.

With over 100 years of combined experience, we at Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A. are confident we can successfully advocate for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation regarding your drug-related offenses and convictions today.

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