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Federal Student Financial Aid Penalties for Drug Law Violations

Under the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008, a student is convicted of a drug offense after receiving Federal Student Aid (FSA) funds must notify the Office of Financial Aid immediately. The student will become ineligible for further federal aid and be required to pay back any and all aid received after the conviction. After receiving a conviction, the student can enroll in a rehabilitation program that may reinstate their federal financial aid eligibility.

Students Convicted of Possession or Sale of Drugs Policy
A federal or state drug conviction can disqualify a student for FSA funds. Convictions only count if they were for an offense that occurred during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving Title IV aid. Offenses occuring outside of this time period do not count. A conviction that was reversed, set aside, or removed from the student’s record does not count, nor does one received when she was a juvenile, unless she was tried as an adult.

The chart below illustrates the period of ineligibility for FSA funds, depending on whether the conviction was for sale or possession and whether the student had previous offenses. (A conviction for sale of drugs includes convictions for conspiring to sell drugs.)


Possession of Illegal drugs

Sale of Illegal Drugs

1st Offense

1 year from date of conviction

2 years from date of conviction

2nd Offense

2 years from date of conviction

Indefinite period

3+ Offenses

Indefinite period



If the student was convicted of both possessing and selling illegal drugs, and the periods of ineligibility are different, the student will be ineligible for the longer period.  A student regains eligibility the day after the period of ineligibility ends or when he successfully completes a qualified drug rehabilitation program. Further drug convictions will make him ineligible again. It is the student’s responsibility to certify to that s/he has successfully completed the rehabilitation program.
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