Losing Financial Aid Eligibility: Drug Convictions

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The Higher Education Amendments of 1998 include an eligibility provision that states a student is ineligible for federal student aid if convicted, under federal or state law, of any offense involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance during a period of enrollment in which federal student aid was received.

Federal aid can be grants, student loans, and/or college work study. The period of ineligibility begins on the date of conviction and lasts until the end of a statutorily specified period. The student may regain eligibility early by completing a drug rehabilitation program or if the conviction is overturned.

Suspension of Eligibility for Drug-Related Offenses

Section 484®*, Higher Education Act of 1965, detailing the suspension of eligibility for drug-related offenses and rehabilitation, follows:

  1. In general - a student who has been convicted of any offense under any federal or state law involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance shall not be eligible to receive any grant, loan, or work assistance under this title during the period beginning on the date of such conviction and ending after the interval specified below:

    Ineligibility period If convicted of possession of a controlled substance:

    • First offense : 1 year
    • Second offense : 2 years
    • Third offense : Indefinite

    Ineligibility period If convicted of sale of a controlled substance:

    • First offense : 2 years
    • Second offense : Indefinite
  2. Rehabilitation - a student whose eligibility has been suspended under paragraph (1) may resume eligibility before the end of the ineligibility period determined under such paragraph if
    1. the student satisfactorily completes a drug rehabilitation program that –
      1. complies with such criteria as the Secretary shall prescribe in regulations for purposes of this paragraph; and
      2. includes two unannounced drug tests; or
    2. the conviction is reversed, set aside, or otherwise rendered nugatory.
  3. Definitions – In this subsection, the term "controlled substance" has the meaning given the term in section 102(6) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C.802(6)).

* This subsection was added by section 483(f) of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 (H.R. 6).