Even though the average cost of a four-year education has dropped in recent years, colleges and universities remain expensive. In fact, the average cost to pursue a bachelor’s degree at an in-state school in California is more than $14,000 per year. 

Pell grants, loans, work study and other federal student aid may be available to help you cover some educational expenses. If you have a drug conviction, though, you may face a suspension of your student aid. 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid

To determine your eligibility for federal student aid, you must complete the FAFSA. If you have never attended a college or university, the form is not likely to ask you about drug convictions. As a returning student, however, you must disclose if you have a conviction for possessing or selling a controlled substance. 

Federal financial aid suspension

Convictions for possessing or selling controlled substances usually trigger suspensions of federal student aid. The length of the suspension depends on both the number and type of drug offense. The following general guidelines apply: 

  • For a first offense, suspension is one year for possession and two years for selling. 
  • For a second offense, suspension is two years for possession and indefinitely for selling. 
  • For a third offense, suspension is indefinite for both possession and selling. 

The process of restoring eligibility

If you are facing a suspension of your federal student aid, you may have a couple options for restoring eligibility. For example, you may simply wait for the suspension period to lapse. Alternatively, you may attend a rehabilitation program and pass two surprise drug tests. 

Either way, if you are struggling to pay for your college degree, working to restore eligibility for federal financial aid may be key.