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School your child on the impact of a drug conviction

In the midst of this new academic year, students attending classes in area colleges and universities have a few weeks before the flood of midterm exams begins to swell. Many students use the quiet period before mid semester tests to prepare for upcoming examinations while others busy themselves partying. For those choosing the latter activity over the former, they would do well to familiarize themselves with the conditions of their school loans.

Federal law prevents those convicted of drug offenses from receiving government benefits. While your children may not concern themselves with subsidies like foods stamps or federal housing, they will be impacted if they rely on federal loans to assist in paying for college tuition. In the past, students with a single drug conviction on their records had been permanently barred from applying for aid. Changes to the law in 2009 have relaxed the repercussions of an often one-time offense.

Here are a few points you should review with your adult child to ensure that she realizes that there will be consequences when she is convicted of "just smoking a little weed":

1. What convictions should be a concern?

Under the federal law, any drug conviction provides grounds for suspension of federal aid. That includes possession or conspiring to sell drugs. While the quantity of drugs in possession may result in a misdemeanor charge, this charge will negate your child's ability to obtain aid. Minors ticketed with possession of alcohol will not lose eligibility.

2. What are the repercussions?

The punishment for the drug charge will depend on the severity of the drug offense. For students charged with possession, the student will be prohibited from receiving government support for one year. After a second offense takes place, the student will find her suspension lengthened to two years. Upon receiving a third conviction, the ability to apply for aid is suspended indefinitely.

Penalties for those convicted of selling drugs are more severe. It is important to remember that while the ability to apply is suspended after an initial conviction, it is not banned permanently. This was not the case in the past.

These rules apply for student aid provided as a grant, loan or work-study program. Additionally, these repercussions will be felt wherever the student is enrolled. Whether student attends an in-state or out-of-state college makes no difference if she relies on federal loans to supplement funding for tuition.

3. How does reinstatement occur?

The federal government recognized that the previous federal law was too harsh in indefinitely restricting federal loans after one conviction. In many cases, students who made one mistake were forever barred from attending college, preventing them from obtaining well-paying careers requiring college degrees. It is for this reason that students are allowed to apply for aid after satisfying the requirements of their suspension. Students wishing to abbreviate their period of ineligibility may do so by entering a drug rehabilitation program and passing two unannounced drug tests.

If you have been following our blog, you know that there are options for first time offenders to limit the impact a conviction has on their future. This is also the case for students convicted of drug offenses while in college. While one bad choice may delay plans made for the future, it doesn't have to completely derail them.

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