You Might Not Get Kicked Off Financial Aid For Drug Offenses Anymore

Lawmakers are working to repeal a statute that has made students convicted of drug offenses ineligible to receive federal financial aid for the past decade. That means if you've gotten in trouble with the police over your occasional weed habit, you could be forced to pay sky-high college tuition rates out of pocket.

A 1998 amendment on the Higher Education Act of 1965 states that a student who has been convicted of any federal or state drug possession or sale offense will be unable to receive any grant, loan, or work assistance for a given time (with a minimum ineligibility period of one year), depending on the type and number of offenses.

Question #23 on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as FAFSA), asks whether or not the applicant has been convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid in the past. If the student answers “yes” or chooses not to answer the question, they may not be eligible to receive any federal aid assistance for that year.

"A youthful mistake shouldn’t keep a person out of college and the middle class,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told The Huffington Post. “There’s now an emerging bipartisan consensus on the need to reform our criminal justice system and ensure students who have already paid their debt to society are not punished twice."

Senators Casey, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have sponsored the Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act or SUCCESS Act, to do just that.

If enacted, the SUCCESS Act would repeal the suspension of eligibility for drug-related offenses and eliminate the drug conviction question from the FAFSA.

"It is not the Education Department’s job to punish students for drug infractions," Sen. Hatch told The Huffington Post. "Statistics and common sense tell us it is bad policy to deny students education if we want to reduce drug abuse and encourage young people to become successful."