How Do Drug Charges Affect Financial Aid?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 01, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You may have heard recently that universities and the federal government are working to remove barriers for college hopefuls with criminal records. While this may be welcome news to those with youthful indiscretions in their past or those trying to turn lives around, there remains one crucial hurdle left: financial aid.

Even if someone with a criminal conviction on their record is accepted to college, he or she may not be able to afford it without help, and a drug conviction especially can make securing a student loan far more difficult.

Don't Get High on the Government's Supply

Here's the good news: a drug conviction will only affect your eligibility for federal student aid if the conviction is for a drug-related offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid. How do you know exactly when that is? The White House can help:

You are considered to be receiving aid beginning on the day that classes start for any term you have applied for, been approved for, and for which you have accepted an offer for Federal student aid. Summer breaks do not count as time receiving aid if you are not enrolled in classes. However, holiday breaks during the academic year count as time enrolled.

(There's a chart if you need more help.)

Also, you're not automatically disqualified from receiving financial aid forever with a drug conviction. A first drug possession offense makes you ineligible for one year from the conviction, while a second possession offense or first drug selling offense makes you ineligible for two years.


Even if your eligibility for federal student aid has been suspended due to a drug conviction, there are ways to apply for early reinstatement. But they won't be easy. You're eligibility can be automatically reinstated if your conviction is overturned, rendered invalid, or set aside.

Otherwise, you will either need to complete an approved drug rehabilitation program that includes passing two unannounced drug tests, or pass two unannounced drug tests administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program.

Whether a drug conviction will affect non-federal student aid may be up to the lender and there may be ways to expunge a drug conviction from your criminal record before you apply for financial aid. If you have further questions about drug convictions and financial aid, you should speak with an experienced drug crimes attorney in your area.

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