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Higher Education Opportunities Act

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) requires institutions of higher learning to provide every student with a clear and conspicuous written notice of penalties associated with drug ‐ related offenses. It also requires institutions to provide students who have lost eligibility for any grants, loans, or work ‐ study assistance as a result of these penalties a clear and separate written notice of the loss of eligibility and the ways in which a student may regain eligibility.

A federal or state drug conviction can disqualify a student for Federal Student Assistance (FSA) funds. Convictions only count if they were for an offense that occurred during a period of enrollment for which you are receiving federal funds—they do not count if the offense was not during such a period. Additionally, a conviction that was reversed, set aside, or removed from the student's record does not count, nor does one received when he/she was a juvenile, unless he/she was tried as an adult. The chart below illustrates the period of ineligibility for FSA funds, depending on whether the conviction was for sale or possession and whether the student had previous offenses. (A conviction for sale of drugs includes convictions for conspiring to sell drugs.)

Possession of Illegal DrugsSale of Illegal Drugs
1st Offense1 year from date of conviction2 years from date of conviction
2nd Offense2 years from date of convictionIndefinite period
3+ OffensesIndefinite period

If you were convicted of both possessing and selling illegal drugs, and the periods of ineligibility are different, you will be ineligible for the longer period. You regain eligibility the day after the period of ineligibility ends or when you have successfully completed a qualified drug rehabilitation program. Further drug convictions will make you ineligible again.

If you are denied eligibility for an indefinite period you may regain eligibility only after successfully completing a rehabilitation program only as described below or if a conviction is reversed, set aside, or removed from your record so that fewer than two convictions for sale or three convictions for possession remain on the record. In such cases, the nature and dates of the remaining convictions will determine when you regain eligibility. It is your responsibility to certify that you have successfully completed the rehabilitation program.

A qualified drug rehabilitation program must include at least two unannounced drug tests and must satisfy at least one of the following requirements.

  • Be qualified to receive funds directly or indirectly from a federal, state, or local government program.
  • Be qualified to receive payment directly or indirectly from a federally or state ‐ licensed insurance company.
  • Be administered or recognized by a federal, state, or local government agency or court.
  • Be administered or recognized by a federally or state ‐ licensed hospital, health clinic, or medical doctor.

If it has been determined that you are ineligible for financial assistance due to a drug violation, the Office of Student Financial Assistance will contact you using the Sauk Valley Tracking Letter. It will instruct you to contact our office to resolve issues with your financial assistance.