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Reentry Resource Center - New York

Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Education Loans & Criminal Records

Education Loans

Most people with criminal convictions are eligible to receive financial aid for higher education, but there are a few kinds of convictions that can affect your eligibility. This section includes information about which convictions affect your ability to get financial aid, and what you can do to overcome these obstacles.

1. What kinds of convictions can make me ineligible to receive federal financial aid?

  • If you were convicted of any offense involving the possession or sale of drugs (including marijuana), if the conduct occurred while you were also receiving any federal grant, loan, or work assistance, then your financial aid eligibility can be suspended for one to two years.
  • The Federal Law that defines ineligibility for financial aid is 20 U.S.C. ยง 1091(r)(1).

2. I got a drug conviction while receiving financial aid. When can I get financial aid back?

  • Depending on how many convictions you have and whether they were for possession or sale, you will be ineligible for a certain amount of time, running from the date of conviction.
    • Possession of a controlled substance
      • One conviction: ineligible for one year
      • Two convictions: ineligible for two years
      • Three or more convictions: you can no longer receive financial aid
    • Sale of a controlled substance
      • One conviction: ineligible for two years
      • Two or more convictions: you can no longer receive financial aid

3. Is there anything I can do to shorten the suspension period?

  • Yes. You can go to a drug treatment program for six months. The program must be certified by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), and it must include two unannounced drug tests. Once you complete the program, you can receive a waiver that allows you to get financial aid again.

This handout is an excerpt from The Consequences of Criminal Charges: A People's Guide, published by The Bronx Defenders. It is for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for legal advice. It is up to date as of November 2013.

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