If you have been following our blog, you may have read our post on starting a conversation with your adult children regarding the long-term consequences of their actions in college. While they may be of legal age to be living on their own, some college-age students engage in activities that reveal their decision-making abilities aren’t where they should be. In the past, such youthful indiscretions may have been condoned or had a limited impact on the young adult’s life. With the ubiquitous nature of criminal records today, however, infractions and misdemeanors can haunt an individual throughout his life.

When the illicit activity is smoking pot, students on federal aid will find that authorities and the federal government do not take a charitable view when they mete out punishment. Over the impending semester break, parents would be well-served to mention marijuana usage specifically when discussing short-term pleasure-seeking that has a long-term impact.

The Higher Education Act’s (HEA) Aid Elimination Penalty prohibits college students from receiving federal loans for college tuition should they receive a drug conviction. The following facts can show your adult child how his educational goals will be curtailed if this conviction appears on his record:

1. Loans covered

Students who receive private loans are not subject to the provisions of the HEA. Money provided by federal loans is at risk for suspension. Students can use federal loans to fund private or public college education and at four-year universities or community colleges. Out-of-state and in-state students utilize these loans. Regardless of the type of school attended and where it’s attended, students will lose their funding if they receive a drug conviction.

2. Length of suspension

Previous to 2009, students with past drug convictions were denied access to federal loans. For some nontraditional students desiring to return to school, they found that their plans were derailed by convictions that could have been recorded twenty years previous to college enrollment. There was no statute of limitations for this penalty.

Amendments to this penalty have made the suspension a bit more tolerable. Students receiving a drug conviction are banned from receiving federal aid for one year. While this time period may not seem to be too long, there are statistics that reveal the impact the loss that one academic year has on graduation rates. According to the Department of Education, 36 percent of students who decided to leave their four-year school failed to return after five years. Half of the students attending a community college did not resume their studies after the same period of time. For these students, one year’s loss of enrollment may have led to a life without a college degree.

3. Ability to limit suspension

In certain situations, students are able to limit the length of their suspension. Students who are first- or second-time offenders may enroll in a drug treatment program to become eligible for loans in less than one calendar year. Completion of the program and successfully passing unannounced drug tests can lead to a loan reinstatement.

While bringing up the topic of drug infractions may not make for light family conversation, it is one that could protect your child’s academic future. The Department of Education doles out penalties even if students are ignorant of its policies. Your discussion of this penalty at home could become one of the most important lessons your child learns all year.