Financial Aid Penalties for Drug Conviction
Students Convicted of Possession for Sale of Drugs
A federal or state drug conviction can disqualify a student for Federal Student Aid (FSA).In the case of a conviction, the student needs to notify the financial office that he or she still qualifies for financial aid. If the financial aid office receives conflicting information, the student may be disqualified from receiving aid at that time.
Convictions only count against a student for aid eligibility purposes (FAFSA question 23c) 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, unless the student was denied federal benefits for drug trafficking by a federal or state judge (see drug abuse hold sidebar, next page). Also, a conviction that was reversed, set aside, or removed from the student’s record does not count, 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||Indefinite period|
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. Schools must provide each student who becomes ineligible for FSA funds due to a drug conviction a clear and conspicuous written notice of the student’s loss of eligibility and the methods whereby the student can become eligible again.
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.
Students denied eligibility for an indefinite period can regain it after successfully completing a rehabilitation program (as described below), passing two unannounced drug tests from such a program, or if a conviction is 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. In such cases, the nature and dates of the remaining convictions will determine when the student regains eligibility. It is the student’s responsibility to certify to you that she has successfully completed the rehabilitation program; as with the conviction question on the FAFSA, you are not required to confirm the reported information unless you have conflicting information.
When a student regains eligibility during the award year, you may award Pell grant, TEACH, and Campus-based aid for the current payment period and Direct loans for the period of enrollment.
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.
If you are counseling a student who will need to enter such a program, be sure to advise the student of these requirements. If a student certifies that he or she has successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program, but you have reason to believe that the program does not meet the requirements, you must find out if it does before paying the student any FSA funds.
HEA Sec. 428(b)(1)(A), 34 CFR 668.2(b)
A school may choose to define half time as half of the minimum full-time standard established in the regulations even if this is less than half the full-time standard established by the school. For example, if a school sets 14 semester hours as full time, it could use 6 semester hours (one-half of the regulatory full-time minimum of 1).
HEA Section 484(r), 34 CFR 668.40
A student who self certifies that he or she has a qualifying drug conviction will receive a “C” code and comment code 053, 054, 056, 058, or 052 or his or her SAR and ISIR. See the SAR Comment Code and Text Guide on IFAP.