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How can a drug conviction impact student loan eligibility?

For Iowa residents accused of a drug crime, this could mean serious penalties; however, for those currently receiving student financial aid or intending to apply for aid, the consequences of a conviction could greatly impact the future of the accused. In fact, a drug felony or misdemeanor conviction could interfere with an individual's eligibility to receive financial aid while they attend college.

How does a drug-related conviction impact student loan eligibility? If a student is convicted of either a felony or misdemeanor drug charge while they are receiving federal student aid, he or she will automatically become ineligible to receive financial aid for a specified period of time following the conviction.

The period of ineligibility is dependent on the type of drug charge and number of previous offenses. If it is the student's fist offense, he or she is ineligible for one year after conviction for the possession of illegal drugs and two years after the date of conviction for the sale of illegal drugs. For the second offense, the student is ineligible for two years after the date of conviction for the possession of illegal drugs and is indefinitely ineligible for the sale of illegal drugs for the second time. Three or more convicted offenses of either possession or sale of illegal drugs results in an indefinite period of ineligibility.

Those convicted of a drug charge are able to shorten the period of ineligibility three ways. This includes those that are indefinite. First, the student needs to complete an approved drug rehabilitation program and pass two unannounced drug tests. The second way is to pass two unannounced drug tests administered at an approved drug rehabilitation program. And the third way to shorten the period of ineligibility is to have a conviction reversed, set aside or rendered invalid.

Because financial aid is often the only way a student is able to afford college, it is important that he or she does not lose this funding. It is also critical to understand how and why a student could become ineligible because of a drug crime conviction. Those accused of a drug crime should take the time to understand the crime he or she was convicted of and the defense options available. This could help the defendant avoid serious penalties, resulting in reduced and even dismissed charges.

Source: Whitehouse.gov, "FAFSA Facts," accessed Jan. 25, 2016

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