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Can You Get Financial Student Aid If You Have Had a Drug Conviction?

Teen drug abuse

Teenagers who are abusing drugs may feel like they have no future. While some may consider suicide, many others will simply succumb to the idea that getting high is the only way to cope with life and the struggles that it brings. So they give up on their dreams that they had for adulthood, which often include attending college.

This is especially common among teens who feel that if they get convicted of possessing (or selling) illicit drugs, their future is ruined and their life is over. Unless teenagers or their families can afford to fund the hefty price tag of higher learning, such thoughts may lead to more nihilistic behavior and/or heavier drug use to cope with their perceived failure. What these teens need to realize is that it is never too late to get clean, obtain financial aid, and go to college – not even if they have a criminal record which includes drug offenses.

Drug Convictions Do Not Prevent College Enrollment

First and foremost, there is no law which prohibits people with drug convictions from enrolling in a public college or university (most private schools do not have blanket policies about drug convictions either). It is true that such a conviction may count against you in the application process, but it is not necessarily a deal breaker – though lying about it on your college application may be. If you need financial aid to attend college, be aware that there are many private grants, scholarships, or sources of funding available. Many of them may not care (or even inquire) about a drug conviction. Some may be completely need-based, while others are more competition-focused in order to reward teens with specific skills (like essay writing, coding, or community service).

Federal Financial Aid for Drug Offenders

Of course, the most common sources of financial aid are those which are funded by the federal government. These include student loans backed by Uncle Sam, Pell grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs), and Federal Work Study (FWS) programs.

To be eligible for these types of funds, a college applicant must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a ten-page form available on the Internet. Though there are over 100 pieces of information the form requires, the most relevant question for teen addicts is #23: “Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans)?”

Teen drug abuse

As the question implies, there are several scenarios where this might not affect a teen’s eligibility status for federal funding, including:

  1. If you have never received federal funding before for higher education
  2. If your conviction has been set aside, vacated, or released (perhaps after fulfilling requirements mandated by the court)
  3. If your conviction took place while you were a minor and you were tried as a minor
  4. If your conviction pertains to possession or consumption of alcohol or tobacco
  5. If you have received federal funding for school but your conviction occurred at a time when you were not enrolled at college (like when you were home for the summer, for instance)
However, if you have indeed been convicted of a drug offense while receiving federal funding for college, your eligibility will be affected – but not forever. You will have to fill out an additional worksheet detailing your conviction and criminal history, but your eligibility for federal funds will likely follow these general guidelines:
  • For your first conviction of illegal drug possession, you cannot receive federal aid for one year after your conviction date. For the second such offense, the time period is two years from your date of conviction.
  • For your first conviction of illegal drug sales or distribution, you cannot receive federal aid for two years from your date of conviction.
  • People with three or more convictions for drug possession or multiple conviction of drug sales are ineligible for federal aid for an indefinite period of time.

Become Eligible By Completing Rehab

Even if you do have a criminal record involving drugs, you still can regain your eligibility for federal financial aid. All you have to do is to successfully complete an acceptable drug rehabilitation program. This type of program:
  • Meets standards established by the Department of Education and Congress
  • Requires the passage of two unannounced drug tests
  • Is administered by a federal, state, or local government agency; or by a hospital, health clinic, or physician that is licensed by the state, or
  • Is eligible for federal funds from an insurance company licensed by the state; or a federal, state, or local government program or agency
Teen drug abuse

Given the wide variety of higher education funding sources and the flexibility in the rules for federal financial aid, there is no reason for any teen to give up on his or her college dreams. This applies to teens who not only have a drug conviction on their record, but also those who are currently on probation or parole as well as those who have completed any incarcerative sentence.

Hopefully, this information provides additional incentives for any teens struggling with substance abuse or addiction to address and overcome their problem. The first step is to ask for help because chances are, you will not be able to complete this journey on your own. If you need more information on drug rehabilitation for teenagers, contact us today. We can help.

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