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Federal Financial Aid / Penalties for Drug Law Violations

A federal or state drug conviction can disqualify a student for Federal Student Aid. The student self-certifies on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, that he/she is eligible for aid. Students who answer “Yes” to question 23 on the FAFSA will be sent a worksheet by the federal processing center to determine if the conviction affects eligibility for aid. Also, if the Financial Aid Office is notified that a student has been convicted of possession or sale of illegal drugs during the academic year, all federal student aid will be suspended immediately.

Convictions only count if they were for an offense that occurred during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving Federal Student Aid—they do not count if the offense was not during such a period. Also, a conviction that was reversed, set aside, or removed from the student’s record does not count, nor does one received when the student was a juvenile, unless tried as an adult.

The chart below illustrates the period of ineligibility for federal student aid 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.)

Convictions 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* Indefinite Period*

*Under the law, an indefinite period of ineligibility continues unless your conviction is overturned or otherwise rendered invalid or you meet one of the reinstatement requirements specified below.

If the student was convicted of both possessing and selling illegal drugs, and the periods of ineligibility are different, the student will be ineligible for the longer period. The period of ineligibility begins as of the date of the conviction. A conviction is defined as a conviction that is on a student’s record at the time the student’s eligibility is being determined.

Schools must provide each student who becomes ineligible for FSA funds due to a drug conviction a clear and conspicuous written notice of his/her loss of eligibility and the methods whereby he/she can become eligible again.

A student regains eligibility the day after the period of ineligibility ends or when he/she –

1. Successfully completes a qualified drug rehabilitation program that includes passing two unannounced drug tests given by such a program;

2. Having the conviction reversed, set aside, or removed from the student’s record so that fewer than two convictions for sale or three convictions for possession remain on the record; or

3. Successfully completing two unannounced drug tests which are part of a rehab program (the student does not need to complete the rest of the program).

Further drug convictions will render the student ineligible again.

An illegal drug is a controlled substance as defined by section 102(6) of the Controlled Substances Act [21 U.S.C. 801(6)] and does not include alcohol or tobacco. Students may obtain additional information on eligibility and approved treatment programs by contacting the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-433-3243.

Standards for a qualified drug rehabilitation program

A qualified drug rehabilitation program must include at least two unannounced drug tests and satisfy at least one of the following requirements:

*Be qualified to receive funds directly or indirectly from a federal, state, or local government program.

*Be qualified to receive payment directly or indirectly from a federally, or state-licensed insurance company.

*Be administered or recognized by a federal, state, or local government agency or court.

*Be administered or recognized by a federally, or state-licensed hospital, health clinic or medical doctor.

It is the student’s responsibility to certify to the Financial Aid Office the date of conviction and if he/she has completed a drug rehabilitation program.

For more information, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the US Department of Education have published a FACT sheet that include: the loss of eligibility, approved treatment programs, and who to call with further questions. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/recovery/fafsa.pdf