If you plan to compete for government-backed grants, loans, and work-study funds, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by your college’s or university’s deadline. This deadline often comes early in the academic year, so don’t let it sneak up on you.
You may have heard that certain criminal convictions affect government-backed financial aid. Regrettably, unlike a basic conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol, a conviction for selling or possessing a controlled substance is likely to trigger a suspension of your federal student aid.
Your award period
The FAFSA’s instructions indicate that you only have to disclose drug-related convictions that happen during your award period. Consequently, any conviction occurring before you were receiving government-backed financial aid may not interfere with your eligibility. In fact, you might not even have to mention it.
Your financial aid suspension
If your conviction for selling or distributing a controlled substance comes during your award period, you should notify your school immediately. After all, you may have to repay any funds you receive in error. The length of your suspension, though, depends on the nature of the offense and your entire criminal history. One-year, two-year, and indefinite financial aid suspensions may be possible.
Your next steps
While a suspension of your federal student aid may make college temporarily unaffordable, you may be able to end the suspension before it lapses on its own. To do so, you can either go to rehab or agree to random drug testing and successfully pass several tests.
Alternatively, you can mount an aggressive defense to the drug charges you are facing and potentially avoid a conviction altogether. Either way, thinking carefully about the consequences of a conviction and your response to charges may help to keep your educational goals intact.