People convicted of drugs crime will be banned from receiving federal financial aid for university tuition in the United States from next summer.
The ban runs for a minimum of a year from the date of conviction and, in some cases, permanently. Some students will have to complete a drug rehabilitation programme before receiving aid.
Some 34 per cent of American university students reported having used illegal drugs in a 1995 University of Michigan study.
A more recent national survey showed that 16 per cent of university-age adults admitted using such drugs regularly. This is up for the fifth year in a row.
But the regulations are as much about getting tough on drugs as about cutting the student loans system, which has been criticised because some government money was going to convicted drug offenders.
Students will have to report any drug convictions when they apply for federal financial aid. If they cover up, they will have to repay the money and face prosecution.
Student groups complain that cracking down on one-time drug offenders by denying them a higher education is counter-productive.
An organisation called Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which opposes the law, has planned a conference in Washington on the issue.
Under the regulations, a student accused of possessing drugs will be ineligible for financial aid for one year from conviction. Anyone convicted of selling drugs will lose their chance for federal tuition assistance for two years. Students found guilty of possession three times, or of dealing twice, will be permanently barred from getting money from the government for university tuition.