How do drug and DUI convictions affect college financial aid?

To determine if you are eligible for government-backed financial aid for funding your education, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Officials use this application to dole out Pell grants, subsidized loans and work-study funds.

The FAFSA asks whether you have any convictions for drug-related offenses during your award period. It does not inquire about drunk driving offenses, though. Consequently, while an ordinary DUI conviction may not interfere with your college financial aid, a drug-related conviction is likely to trigger a suspension.

Drug-related offenses

You must disclose any conviction for possessing or selling a controlled substance during your award period. After all, making untrue or misleading statements on your FAFSA is likely to lead to other consequences beyond a suspension of your federal financial aid.

The length of a drug-related suspension of your government-backed financial assistance depends both on the nature and number of the offense. One-year, two-year and longer suspensions are possible. During your suspension, you may neither receive additional financial aid nor use any aid you have already received.

A chance for restoration

It is typically possible to end a drug-related suspension of financial aid early. To do so, you may complete a drug rehabilitation program or successfully pass two surprise drug tests. Either way, it is important to notify your college of your efforts to end the suspension.

Being unable to pay for higher education is one of the more common consequences of a criminal conviction. Therefore, rather than potentially losing your government-backed financial aid, you may want to explore all options for defending yourself against drug charges.