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Drug offenses could lead to federal aid penalties

Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010

Updated: Thursday, September 30, 2010 11:09

By David Scheuermann

Contributing Writer

Next time you think about purchasing illegal drugs, consider saving that money for your educational expenses.

Federal regulation (HEA Sec. 484(r) (1)); (20 U.S.C. 1091(r) (1)) states that any student convicted of possession or sale of illegal drugs will have his or her federal financial aid, grants, loans and even work-study assistance revoked for a specified period of time.

"Students who are utilizing federal tax dollars to pay for college have a responsibility to follow federal laws," said Cathy Simoneaux, director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

Drug offense convictions only affect a student if the offense occurred during the period that the student was receiving federal aid money while enrolled in school. Any prior convictions have no affect on the disqualification of aid money.

First-time drug offenses can cause a student to lose financial aid eligibility for one to two years after conviction depending on whether the offense involved possession or sale.

Still, students do have the possibility to redeem themselves.

"Students who are convicted can take steps to regain their eligibility to participate in federal financial aid programs," Simoneaux said.

The main, and also the quickest, way to regain eligibility is for the student to complete a qualified rehabilitation program, though the student must make sure to notify the school that he or she has successfully completed the program in order for the period of ineligibility to end.

However, a student may also regain eligibility if a conviction is reversed, set aside, or removed from the student's record.

Although the rule specifies ineligibility for federal financial aid, this does not mean students have nothing to worry about regarding their Loyola-specific scholarships.

If convicted of a drug offense, Loyola reserves the right to cancel or reduce any scholarship awarded to the student, although the student may file an official request, which would be reviewed by the Financial Aid Appeals Committee to have his or her scholarship reinstituted.

Students can review the full details on the Loyola website at http://www.loyno.edu/financialaid/penalties-drug-convictions.

David Scheuermann can be reached at dhscheue@loyno.edu

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