From incarceration to steep fines, Pennsylvania has some serious penalties for drug-related offenses. If you have a conviction for possessing or selling a controlled substance, you are also vulnerable to certain collateral consequences. Difficulty paying for higher education may be one of them.
If you are already enrolled in a college or university at the time of your conviction, you must disclose it on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Some drug-related convictions result in an immediate suspension of government-backed loans, grants and work-study jobs.
A temporary or indefinite suspension
The length of your drug-related federal student aid suspension depends on the nature of the offense. For first-time possession offenses, the suspension is typically for a year. By contrast, first-time sales offenses usually trigger a two-year suspension of financial aid.
Subsequent offenses for both possession and sales offenses may eventually result in an indefinite suspension.
An obligation to repay
Failing to disclose a drug-related offense on the FAFSA may have serious consequences. For example, if you continue to receive funds in error, you may have an obligation to repay them. You are also likely to remain ineligible for government financial assistance for the duration of your suspension.
A second chance
If you are facing a suspension of your student aid, you may have an opportunity for a second chance. That is, you may be able to reduce the length of your suspension or eliminate it altogether by completing an approved drug rehabilitation program.
To restore eligibility for government-backed aid, you may also complete at least two unannounced drug tests. Either way, if you take advantage of your second chance, you should notify your school so you may once again receive financial assistance.