It’s not unusual for a college student to indulge in the partying aspect of life on campus. For many students, this is their first time away from home, and as such, the freedom that comes with that can facilitate behaviors that they previously wouldn’t have considered—or at the very least, wouldn’t have been so brazen about.

While college may be a time for new experiences and learning valuable life lessons, a drug conviction is no minor bump in the road. For students who rely on financial aid to fund their education, an arrest and subsequent conviction could have disastrous effects on their academic career.

What can lead to aid being stripped?

Students who are receiving federal student aid grants and loans have a short-to-nonexistent leash when it comes to drug offenses. A conviction at the federal or state level for possession, distribution or intent to sell can immediately disqualify a student from getting financial aid. The caveat to this being that the arrest (with the exception of drug trafficking) must have occurred while the student was already receiving funds.

In other words, if the arrest occurs during the summer when they are not in school, but the conviction takes place during the school year, it would not affect their aid eligibility.

Is it permanent?

After a conviction, it is usually possible for a student to regain their eligibility. For federal aid, there is something of a “three strikes” rule for possession arrests:

  • First offense: Loss of eligibility for one year
  • Second offense: Loss of eligibility for two years
  • Third offense: Loss of eligibility indefinitely

Intent to sell or distribution charges do come with harsher consequences, which can usually mean a two-year loss of eligibility for the first offense, and an indefinite loss after the second.

How can a student regain their eligibility?

It goes without saying that a student having to take a year or two off from school is a pretty severe punishment. With the law as it is currently written there are avenues for these students to regain their eligibility early. First- and second-time offenders can do so by entering a qualified rehab program and passing two random drug screens. For those with indefinite ineligibility, they can ease that status by doing the same, allowing them a window to eventually return.

As a loss of financial aid due to a drug conviction is a fairly serious matter, it may be beneficial for such students and their families to consult with an experienced attorney. A qualified legal professional could be of assistance in navigating a proper pathway back to the classroom.