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Can a Criminal Drug Conviction Affect My Scholarship?

Now that it’s more expensive than ever, students rely on scholarships to attend college. Keep reading to learn how a criminal drug charge could affect your opportunities for higher education and scholarships.


Drugs and Scholarships

Criminal convictions of any kind can jeopardize your educational opportunities, and drug charges may cause you to lose your scholarship. Federal student aid applications require students to complete an eligibility worksheet. This might not sound like a big deal, but one question can make the difference between federal aid and paying for school out of pocket.

All schools have their own rules for scholarship requirements, and many colleges do not accept past or current drug use. Always check your school’s rules before applying. Additionally, you may also be ineligible for a student loan.

The most critical factor for federal student aid is whether you were in possession of illegal substances or charged with a criminal drug offense while receiving financial assistance from grants, loans, or work studies. If your financial aid was frozen due to a drug conviction, you might regain your eligibility early by completing a drug rehabilitation program or passing two drug tests.


Why Do Drug Charges Matter?

At this point, you’re probably wondering why a drug charge matters so much regarding federal student aid, and you’re not alone. There’s been a lot of criticism of the higher education system over the past ten years. From the college admissions scandal to the SAT bribery scandal, colleges and universities across the nation have come under fire for accepting students under suspicious and unethical circumstances. However, students with drug charges are still being held responsible for past discretions years after the fact.

As the U.S. continues to reconsider the motivations behind the war on drugs, many advocates want educational institutions to see the benefits of offering students with drug charges the opportunity to pursue a new future. That’s why Representative Karen Bass (D-Ca.) and over 30 co-sponsors are proposing the Financial Aid Fairness for Students Act, which would prohibit the Department of Education from asking about drug convictions. For Rep. Bass and others, the answer to the question “why drug charges matter” is that they don’t.


The Financial Aid Fairness for Students Act

The Higher Education Act suspends federal college aid for anyone convicted of a drug offense. Historically, the law has prevented thousands of students from pursuing higher education or applying for student aid.

The Financial Aid Fairness for Students Act would discourage discrimination against those with drug charges and expand the ability of low- and middle-income students to pursue a college degree. The primary motivation for this law is the need to reverse decades of exclusionary policies that negatively affect people of color.

While people of color are not the only ones targeted by discriminatory financial aid practices, it has become clear in recent years that they pay a higher price for drug charges than other students. Revision of the Higher Education Act would protect all students from discrimination for a drug charge and hopefully allow deserving individuals to pursue a bright future with a college degree.

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