Federal Student Aid Penalties for Drug Convictions

As required by federal regulations, each institution must provide to each student, upon enrollment, a separate, clear, and conspicuous written notice that advises the student that a conviction for any offense, during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving federal financial aid  program funds, under any federal or state law involving the possession or sale of illegal drugs will result in the loss of eligibility for any federal student grant, loan, or work-study assistance (HEA Sec. 484(r)(1)); (20 U.S.C. 1091(r)(1)).

A federal or state drug conviction may disqualify a student for Federal Student Aid.  Convictions only impact eligibility if they were for an offense that occurred during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving Federal Student Aid, however they do not impact eligibility if the offense was not during such a period, unless the student was denied federal benefits for drug trafficking by a federal or state judge.  Further, a conviction that was reversed, set aside, or removed from the student’s record does not impact eligibility, nor does one received when they were a juvenile, unless the student was tried as an adult.

The chart below illustrates the period of ineligibility for FSA funds, depending on whether the conviction was for sale or possession and whether the student had previous offenses.  A conviction for sale of drugs includes convictions for conspiring to sell drugs.

Possession of illegal drugs Sale of illegal drugs
1st offense 1 year from date of conviction 2 years from date of conviction
2nd offense 2 years from date of conviction Indefinite period
3+ offenses Indefinite period

Regaining Eligibility

A student regains eligibility the day after the period of ineligibility ends or when they successfully complete a qualified drug rehabilitation program or pass two unannounced drug tests given by such a program. Further drug convictions will make the student ineligible again.