The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for doling out billions of dollars in federal financial aid to college-bound students every single year. In the past, though, a drug-related conviction was disastrous for students who receive government-backed loans, grants or work-study program funds.
Until recently, college and university students with possession or distribution convictions were ineligible for financial assistance from the federal government. Now, you probably do not have to worry about the possibility of losing your college aid because of a drug conviction.
How it used to work
According to reporting from U.S. News and World Report, the DOE previously played a pivotal role in the federal government’s war on drugs. When students received drug convictions during their award periods, the DOE used to immediately suspend all government-backed financial aid. This approach left students scrambling to pay for tuition, fees and other academic expenses.
How it works now
Criminal justice reformers and education advocates decried the DOE’s policy for decades. Finally, their objections made a critical difference. Thanks to a 2021 policy change, the DOE no longer considers drug convictions when determining eligibility for federal financial aid. The DOE continues to inquire about these convictions, however.
How the policy change affects you
While the threat of losing your federal-government-backed financial aid is no longer real, you continue to be vulnerable to other academic consequences following a drug conviction. For example, your school may discipline you. A drug conviction also may render you ineligible for private scholarships.
Ultimately, because drug convictions continue to be problematic for college-aged students, it is advisable to consider all possible defenses to any drug-related charges you currently are facing.