College life presents many situations in which a college student can face criminal charges: parties where underage students drink, the temptation to drink and drive, and getting in trouble with the law due to drug possession, sale, or use of illegal drugs.

Students with no history of drug use and no history of criminal charges can easily get tangled up into unfortunate situations. These can compound to where they are not only facing criminal charges, but their college career can be negatively impacted or even ruined. A student facing drug-related charges needs to be especially careful, as a conviction could disqualify them from federal financial aid – making it impossible to continue going to school.

What funds qualify as financial aid?

Federal financial aid includes receiving the following after completing a FAFSA:

  • Grants (funds you do not have to pay back, such as a Federal Pell Grant)
  • Federal loans (funds you borrow and re-pay after graduation, usually at a lower interest rate than through a bank)
  • Work-study funds (funds used to pay you an hourly rate for a job or internship through the college)

What makes a student ineligible for financial aid?

Drug convictions can severely limit eligibility for financial aid, or even make a student completely ineligible. This poses a significant risk, especially if the student is already approved for financial aid and receiving funds when the conviction occurs.

Here are the rules regarding drug convictions and eligibility for federal financial aid:

  • If you face a conviction of a drug crime while receiving financial aid, your college and financial aid office could suspend your financial aid
  • You may have the opportunity to regain eligibility by completing a drug rehabilitation program and passing two random drug tests
  • If a court finds you guilty of a drug crime after you turn in your FAFSA (application for financial aid), you could lose eligibility Active version: A conviction after you turn in your FAFSA (application for financial aid) could make you ineligible
  • If you do not notify the financial aid office of your drug conviction and continue receiving financial aid while you are not eligible, you are responsible for paying back funds you received while you were not eligible

Which types of drug convictions apply?

Any drug conviction, even drug possession, can impact financial aid eligibility. Students might not know that even the possession or use of legal drugs such as prescription drugs can lead to serious drug charges if a doctor prescribed the medication to someone else or you obtained the medication illegally.

Penalties for drug crimes in South Carolina can be harsh. A college student or parent of a college student should take any drug-related charges seriously, as they not only impact the student’s criminal record, but could derail a college career, and later get in the way of gaining employment.