If you attend the University of North Carolina at Asheville, you undoubtedly love your collegiate experience. After all, not only does the school provide a first-rate education, but it also offers dozens of opportunities for getting the most out of student life. If you rely on federal student aid to attend the university, though, a drug conviction may be problematic.

The FAFSA allows students to apply for certain loans, grants and work study programs. When completing the application, you must answer a question about your criminal background. Specifically, you must reveal whether you have been convicted of possessing or selling a controlled substance. If you have during your award year, you may face a suspension of funds.

Federal aid suspension 

If your conviction for a controlled substance offense occurred during your time in college, federal officials are likely to suspend your financial aid. The length of the suspension, however, depends on the nature of the offense. For first offenses, the suspension is one year for possession and two years for sale. For second offenses, it is two years for possession and indefinitely for sale offenses. Third and subsequent drug convictions result in indefinite suspensions for both possession and sale.

Reinstatement options 

You may have some options for early reinstatement of your federal student aid. In some situations, officials allow students to complete a rehabilitation program. Those who successfully pass consecutive drug tests during rehab typically may apply for reinstatement. Nevertheless, if you receive federal aid during the time a suspension should have been in effect, you may have to repay the aid.

Exemptions 

If your conviction occurred when you were a minor, you probably do not have to worry about the suspension of your federal student aid. Also, if the offense happened when you were not a student, it may not affect your eligibility.

Because college can be expensive, you likely want to take full advantage of all available financial assistance. Because a drug conviction can be catastrophic for federal student aid, you likely want to defend yourself aggressively against criminal charges.