Can a DUI Conviction Affect my Student Financial Aid?

How a driving-under-the-influence case can put your financial aid in jeopardy.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

Most college and university students rely on financial aid. Typically, students apply for a combination of state and federal student aid. But the bulk of what many students receive comes from the federal government. Here's how a DUI case might affect your eligibility for federal student aid.

Convictions That Can Impact Aid Eligibility

To apply for federal student aid you must fill out a "FAFSA" (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA doesn't ask about DUI convictions, but it does ask about drug convictions. So, if you're convicted of driving under the influence of only alcohol—and no drugs were involved—you don't have to worry about losing your financial aid.

However, in cases where you're stopped for driving under the influence of drugs and police find drugs in the car, your financial aid could be in jeopardy. In such cases, it's common for the driver to be charged with a drug DUI and drug possession. The drug possession charge is what can affect your financial aid.

A drug possession or sales conviction can affect your eligibility to receive federal student aid if the offense occurred:

  • while you were received federal financial aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans), and
  • during a period of enrollment.

However, convictions that were removed from your record or occurred before you turned 18 years old generally don't count.

The Effects of a Qualifying Conviction

If you have a qualifying drug conviction, you can still avoid losing your student aid by completing an "acceptable" drug rehabilitation program. Generally, a program is "acceptable" if it includes at least two unannounced drug tests and is:

  • qualified to receive government funds, or
  • administered by a government agency or a facility that is licensed by the state or federal government.

Should you decide not to complete a program, you'll generally be looking at a year of ineligibility for federal student aid.

(Also, read about the consequences of an underage DUI.)

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