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How criminal charges can impact your higher education plans

Maybe you have decided to go back to school after several years of working in your profession in order to command a higher salary or pursue upward advancement. Maybe you followed a more traditional route of applying to college right after high school. It's even possible that you already have a college degree and want to finish a graduate degree now.

Regardless of what form of higher education you wish to pursue and what age you are, any criminal charges you face before you apply or during your enrollment could have an immediate and negative effect on your educational aspirations. Even juvenile offenses can cause future issues.

In addition to facing criminal consequences that could have an impact on your future opportunities, there could be other, secondary consequences of a criminal conviction that impact your education.

Drug offenses and certain other crimes can affect student aid eligibility

The average higher education student depends on financial aid programs, ranging from subsidized federal student loans to grants and work-study programs to make their dreams of a degree attainable.

Unfortunately, a criminal record can make it impossible for some people to get the financial aid they need to pay for school. Any drug conviction, regardless of how old it is or how minor it was, will affect your eligibility for student aid. Unless you take the steps necessary to expunge the conviction from your record, simply having a previous drug offense on your record is enough to cut you off from all federal financial aid programs.

Certain other offenses, such as specific violent felonies, may also preclude you from qualifying for federal financial aid.

Your school may take independent disciplinary action as well

When you face criminal charges, you face legal penalties and consequences, such as jail time, probation, fines and fees. You can also face consequences from third parties, including your college or university.

Many schools have honor codes for students or behavioral policies that do not permit any kind of criminal activity or conviction during enrollment. A conviction during your time at school could be reason for the school to expel you. In other cases, you may have to go on disciplinary leave, extending the amount of time it will take for you to get your degree.

Outside financial aid may also be at risk

Even scholarships obtained through third parties and independent organizations could decide to eliminate your financial aid if you wind up convicted of a crime while receiving that scholarship. Still, you shouldn't let a simple mistake affect your entire future.

The caliber and amount of education you have will impact your earning potential for the rest of your life. Florida college and graduate students facing criminal charges should consider sitting down with a defense attorney to talk about not just the potential criminal consequences but the educational impact of a conviction.

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