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College Student Defense

Can being accused of a crime affect my college scholarship?

By March 8, 2021September 25th, 2023No Comments

Being accused of a crime can be a scary event for anyone. For college students, however, the potential threat of a criminal conviction can mean the difference between graduating and not graduating.

As student defense attorneys, our team at DC Student Defense deals with college students who are arrested and charged with criminal activity all of the time. One of the most common questions we receive is: “What effect is this going to have on my scholarship?”

The short answer is that it depends – on a number of different variables. Depending on the severity of your crime and your school’s specific policies, you may be in danger of losing all your financial aid, or you may have nothing to worry about.

Below is some of the information you should know if you’re a college student who’s been convicted of a crime.

Federal Financial Aid

One of the biggest suppliers of financial aid in the US is the federal government. Millions of students every year use federal grants and loans to finance their higher education. Without it, many students would likely not be able to attend college at all.

The most prominent barriers for those with a criminal record is a drug offense. Any drug offense bars you from receiving federal grants and loans. Whether a misdemeanor or a felony, anything drug-related disqualifies you from federal financial aid.

For most other felonies, there are no explicit rules against receiving financial aid from the federal government.

If you are currently incarcerated, that will provide barriers to receiving federal funding for your education as well. Incarceration bars you from receiving federal student loans and Pell Grants.

You may still be able to receive work-study or other federal funds, but the fact that you’re incarcerated will make it difficult to meet the requirements for these programs.

Individual Schools’ Scholarships

So being charged with a crime doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose all federal funding – only if you are convicted of a drug offense or if you are sentenced to jail time. But what about your school’s individual merit or need-based scholarships?

Every school’s policies are different. For example, some schools may be participating in Ban the Box campaigns, which advocate for creating greater opportunities for those convicted of felonies.

This means they may not inquire about past criminal records or take that into account when awarding scholarships.

Other schools might take the opposite approach. Many universities have agreements with local law enforcement to be informed whenever one of their students is arrested or gets in trouble with the law.

For these schools, an arrest, charge, or conviction might be enough to disqualify you from their merit or need-based scholarships.

The best way to find out is to contact your school’s financial aid office. They will be able to give you information about your school’s policy and the specific requirements for maintaining good academic standing in order to receive scholarships.

Contact a DC Student Defense Attorney Today

If you have been accused of a crime and you are concerned about the effect that it may have on your college career, working with a student defense attorney to understand the extent of the accusation’s impact is vital.

Contact DC Student Defense today.

We can help make sure your rights are being respected, and walk you through any legal processes you need to protect your academic future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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