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For decades, many professors and criminal justice advocates have decried a U.S. Department of Education policy that affected students with drug convictions. This policy resulted in a suspension of federal government-backed financial aid for students who had convictions for possessing or distributing controlled substances.

Fortunately, the policy no longer exists. Earlier this year, the education department quietly changed its approach to awarding federal government-subsidized loans, grants and work-study dollars.

Your duty when completing the FAFSA

To compete for more than $120 billion in federal educational assistance, you must file the Free Application for Student Aid before your institution’s cut-off date. While a drug conviction on your record no longer impairs your eligibility for federal government-backed financial aid, you still must answer questions about prior drug convictions. You have a duty to answer these honestly.

Your responsibility to complete a worksheet

If you have a conviction for possessing or distributing drugs, the FAFSA’s instructions ask you to prepare a supplemental worksheet. This worksheet is straightforward, but it is important to provide honest and accurate answers. If you have no drug convictions, of course, you do not need to complete the worksheet.

Your college’s policy

While your drug conviction is likely to have no influence on your eligibility for federal educational assistance, your college or university may have different ideas. That is, a drug conviction may violate your student code of conduct, potentially triggering academic discipline. This may include suspension, expulsion or loss of your college scholarships.

Ultimately, even though your federal financial aid is likely to remain intact regardless, fighting drug charges may help you avoid problems with your college or university.