Student Aid Eligibility for Students with Drug Convictions

Filing the FAFSA 2016-2017 Edition Cover PaperbackThe Ultimate Guide to the FAFSA

Download our free PDF to maximize your eligibility for financial aid.

Get my ebook now 

Students who have been convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid may have their eligibility for federal student aid suspended.

Students who have a drug conviction should still complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some students with a drug conviction are ineligible for federal student aid for a period of time and some are not. Even if a student is ineligible for federal student aid, he or she may still be eligible for state and college student aid funds.

Drug Conviction Questions on the FAFSA

The FAFSA will ask some students whether they have been convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid. Based on the answers to the drug conviction questions, the student may be asked to complete a separate worksheet to determine whether the student’s eligibility for federal student aid has been suspended, and for how long.

Students who have never attended college since high school will not be asked any of the drug conviction questions.

Students who indicate that they have attended college before will be asked if they have ever received federal student aid.

If they answer “Yes,” they will be asked whether they have been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs. Most students will answer “No” to this question and will not be asked any additional questions. Otherwise, the student will be asked to complete a worksheet that will ask about the number of convictions for selling or possessing illegal drugs and whether the student has completed an acceptable drug rehabilitation program since the student’s conviction. Federal student aid will be suspended until the student completes the worksheet.

In short, according to the U.S. Department of Education, students should “answer ‘No’ if they have never received federal student aid or if they have never had a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while receiving federal student aid.”

Convictions that did not occur during a period of enrollment when the student was receiving federal student aid do not count. Convictions that have been reversed or set aside do not count. Convictions that occurred while the student was a minor do not count unless the student was tried as an adult. Students with these types of convictions should answer “No” to the drug conviction question.

Suspension of Eligibility for Federal Student Aid

Students who were convicted of the possession or sale of illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid will have their eligibility suspended for a period of time. The duration of the suspension depends on the type of conviction and the number of previous offenses, as shown in this table:

Suspension of Eligibility Possession of Illegal Drugs Sale of Illegal Drugs
First offense 1 year from date of conviction 2 years from date of conviction
Second offense 2 years from date of conviction Indefinite period
Third and subsequent offenses Indefinite period Indefinite period

Students who are convicted of both the possession and sale of illegal drugs will be ineligible for federal student aid and state aid for the longer of the two periods.

Regaining Eligibility for Federal Student Aid

Students can regain eligibility before the end of the ineligibility period by successfully completing a qualified drug rehabilitation program or by passing two unannounced drug tests given by a qualified rehabilitation program.

The Student Survival Guide: The perfect tool for navigating high school & college!
Try it!