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Drug convictions can impact financial aid eligibility

If you are planning a return to a Wisconsin college or university this fall and are relying on federal financial aid to help you, it is critical that you understand how the choices you make can impact your financial aid eligibility.

Sometimes, students who leave home for the first time find themselves experimenting with alcohol or drugs, but if you experiment with drugs and the authorities catch and charge you with a drug-related crime, a subsequent conviction could mean the end of your financial aid.

Virtually all drug convictions count

Just about any type of drug conviction can affect your financial aid eligibility, including state and federal drug crimes relating to possession, drug sales and so on. However, whether your conviction will negate your ability to continue to secure financial aid depends on when law enforcement officials arrested you.

To lose financial aid access, your crime must have happened during a period in which you were already receiving financial aid. For example, say authorities caught you with drugs at a college football game during the school year. Under such circumstances, you could anticipate losing financial aid access for a given period. If, however, authorities arrested you at, say, a Fourth of July party that took place before you were actively attending school and receiving aid, a conviction for that crime typically will not impact financial aid eligibility.

How long can you expect to lose eligibility?

The length of your financial aid ineligibility period will vary based on two factors: the severity of your drug charge and your existing criminal record. As you might imagine, more serious drug crimes typically lead to longer periods of financial aid ineligibility. Likewise, if your drug conviction is not your first, you can also expect a longer loss of financial aid eligibility.

A drug conviction can mean serious consequences for Wisconsin’s college students. However, depending on certain circumstances, you may be able to plead to a lesser charge or pursue other options that may minimize the collateral impact your conviction has on your life. 

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