The U.S. Department of Education plays an integral role in college financing for millions of college-bound teens and adults. In fact, each year, the DOE doles out $120 billion in federal government-subsidized grant, loan and work-study program funds to those who qualify.
If you work with high school students or have one in your family, you may be familiar with the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid. This application, which students usually file in the year before they start college, helps government officials determine eligibility.
A draconian past
Even though students with more serious convictions were typically eligible for FAFSA funds, those with simple drug convictions often were not. Because of the war on drugs, if a student had a conviction for a drug-related offense during his or her award period, there was an automatic suspension of government-subsidized financial aid.
A bright new day
Advocates for both criminal justice reform and educational access have long fought for a change to the DOE’s approach to awarding funds to students with drug convictions. That change came in early 2021. Now, while FAFSA applicants still must disclose their convictions, drug-related convictions have no bearing on financial aid eligibility.
A bit of caution
Even though drug convictions no longer endanger FAFSA funds, students with drug convictions are not entirely out of the woods. That is, a possession or distribution conviction still may lead to academic discipline. Drug convictions may also cost students their private scholarship dollars.
Ultimately, because of the potential consequences that often come with drug convictions, it is often advisable for college-aged students who are facing them to prepare a savvy defense.