How Does a Drug Offense Affect My University Standing?

College is one of the most rewarding experiences that a person can have, and in the modern world, might even be a prerequisite for many other rewarding professional experiences. It is a time for students to explore their passions and use those passions to transition into a successful career. Students enroll in classes to prepare them for their career field, build meaningful relationships and networks, and open opportunities to a better future. 

However, a drug offense can put all of this in jeopardy for a college student. Students should be aware of the severity of drug offenses and the potential impacts on their university standing. Students should also be cognizant of the effect on other aspects of their life, including diminished future career prospects due to drug charges.

Pennsylvania is known for enforcing strict penalties for drug possession. The exact penalty will vary depending on the quantity and type of drug in question. For example, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, while possession of cocaine is a felony in the Commonwealth. Other factors, such as the presence of prior crimes and the area of any alleged distribution are also taken into account.

It is vital for students to understand the potential impact of a drug charge on the student’s university standing and their future. If you or someone close to you have been arrested for possession of drugs, you should call or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us at Disney Law today to schedule a free consultation of your case.

Effect on Financial Aid

With the cost of attending college increasing over time, many students and families are reliant on financial aid to fund their education. However, a drug offense can seriously threaten a student’s ability to obtain or maintain federal financial aid.

Timing of the commission of the crime is important when determining if the student could be disqualified from receiving future financial aid. If a student commits the offense while they are enrolled in school and therefore receiving aid, they can have their eligibility for aid suspended. However, if the offense occurs during a period when the student is not currently enrolled, such as during summer vacation, then the student’s aid will not be affected. 

For drug possession convictions for offenses that occur while a student is receiving aid, students lose their eligibility for federal loans for periods that are determined by the number of possession offenses committed by the student:

  • First offense: One year from the date of conviction 
  • Second offense: Two years from the date of conviction 
  • Third or higher offenses: indefinitely suspended.

For federal financial aid, you can regain eligibility earlier in two separate ways:

  • Passing two random drug tests that are conducted by an approved rehab program
  • Completing a federally approved rehab program

Students should also be aware that if they are convicted of a drug offense after they submit their application for federal student aid, they will lose their eligibility and will have to return the aid they have already received after they were convicted. 

If the student is incarcerated due to their conviction, this will have make obtaining federal student aid even more difficult. The student will no longer be eligible for federal student loans, but might still be eligible for grants or a federal work-study program.

Effects of a Drug Conviction on University Enrollment

The effects of being convicted of a drug offense can go far beyond the student’s ability to pay for their college education. In fact, drug convictions can affect a student’s ability to attend school altogether. 

Laws regarding marijuana have become more lenient in recent years. For example, marijuana has been decriminalized in Pittsburgh since 2016. This means that while it is still illegal to possess marijuana, the penalties for possession have been vastly reduced and now resemble those of a traffic offense.

However, colleges remain vigilant in how they deal with drugs on campus. Colleges will comply with state and federal drug laws, meaning that drugs will be strictly forbidden on campus. This means that for many colleges, drug possession is considered a violation of the school’s Student Code of Conduct. 

As drug possession is also Student Code of Conduct violation, a student that is convicted of drug possession on campus faces two different forms of discipline: The first is from law enforcement, and the second will be from the student’s college. While it may appear that actions from law enforcement may be more consequential, disciplinary responses from the college should be taken no less seriously.

The specific disciplinary enforcement manner will vary by school and the student’s specific case, but they can have drastic consequences on the student’s academic career. For a first time or relatively minor offense, the school may only place the student on probation for a specific period of time. However, for more serious offenses, particularly those involving outside law enforcement, students could face higher levels of enforcement. These punishments could be as severe as suspension or the loss of on-campus housing. In the most serious cases, students could be expelled from their college.

In addition, some colleges also require that students that violate the school’s Student Code of Conduct participate in additional educational programming regarding drug and alcohol abuse. This can come in the form of online classes, in-person meetings, or research essays, and students may be responsible for any associated costs. 

Effects on Future Career Prospects

It is understandable that it might be hard to think about the future when you are still facing discipline for a drug conviction. However, while you are concerned about what will happen to you in the coming weeks and months, perhaps the biggest threat to the student is what might happen years down the road.

First, students that had to miss a substantial amount of time in school due to suspensions or jail time stemming from the drug charge could see their graduation delayed. The school could also prevent the student from graduating if they have not completed any mandatory educational programs for their drug offenses. Obviously a late and uncertain graduation will delay any potential job prospects for a student.

Another concern for a student’s future would be their opportunity to attend graduate school. Grad schools will ask students on their applications whether they have had any prior criminal convictions, and will generally ask students to explain what happened. While this might not fully eliminate the student from consideration, it may very well make the student less attractive to an admissions committee. 

This concern also carries over to potential employers once the student completes their education. In many job applications, employers will also ask whether the applicant had any prior criminal offenses. Just like admission committees for grad schools, those in charge of hiring new employees may find an applicant less desirable if they have some kind of criminal history, including drug charges. In certain career fields, particularly those involving children, having criminal and drug offenses can virtually prevent you from obtaining a job. 

However, there are some silver linings. In many applications, the employer may only require that you list felonies on your application. If your drug offenses in college were more minor, such as mere possession, this may not act as a hinderance on your application. These minor offenses, particularly those that occurred earlier in your college career, might not even be required to be disclosed on some applications. 


Regardless of the situation, a student in college should understand the severity of any drug charge that they might face. In addition to any consequences resulting from a criminal conviction, such as fines or jail time, students can also face discipline from their school if the offense occurs on campus. This discipline can range from being placed on probation in minor offenses, to facing expulsion for more serious charges. 

Students can also lose their eligibility to receive financial aid if they are convicted of a drug offense while receiving that aid. For many students, this means they will not have the means to attend school until they are eligible to receive financial aid again. Without being able to attend college, students could severely limit their job options in the future.

Finally, a drug conviction can prevent a student from obtaining a job in the future. Employers want an employee that they can trust, and having a drug conviction on your application may cause an employer to disregard your application. Drug convictions may even disqualify you from working in particular career fields, such as education or law enforcement.

Drug offenses are very serious. They can affect your freedom, your education, and your future.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation 

If you or someone close to you have been arrested for a drug offense and do not know what steps to take next, you should call attorney Robert Disney today. Mr. Disney is a skilled attorney in Pittsburgh with experience defending students on drug charges. Call or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us at Disney Law today to schedule a free consultation of your case.