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Can drug charges keep me from getting financial aid for school?

Sometimes the mistakes that we make can hamper our ability to move forward, even when we are trying to make a change for the better. Many students going to college for the first time or returning after an absence need financial aid to be able to afford a post-secondary education.

While there are government grants and loans that can help, being convicted of a drug-related offense while you are receiving financial aid can automatically disqualify you. In some cases, you may even have to pay any money you've already received back if you are in the middle of the semester.

Many people believe that only felony convictions are serious, but even a misdemeanor drug conviction while you are receiving federal student aid can mean that your eligibility is suspended. When this happens, you will not be able to receive any more federal aid for a certain time period, usually one or two years depending on the offense. If it is your second conviction for selling drugs or your third conviction for possessing drugs, you are considered to be ineligible for an indefinite period of time.

However, there are some things you can do to possibly shorten your period of ineligibility and get back to school as soon as possible. If you pass two random drug tests or successfully complete a rehab program that includes at least two random drug tests, you may be able to receive funds sooner. There is also the possibility of talking with an attorney about getting the conviction overturned or your record expunged, which can also help you become eligible for federal aid again.

Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy U.S. Department of Education, "FASFA Facts," accessed April. 23, 2015

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