Pubdate: Tue, 24 Oct 2000
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)


WASHINGTON--Nearly 7,000 college students who applied for financial
aid this fall are finding past drug convictions returning to haunt

The students are being told they are ineligible for some or all
federal financial aid because of a new law. Under the law, which took
effect with the 2000-01 academic year, students with drug-related
convictions can be ruled ineligible for federal grants or loans.

Of the 8.6 million applications processed through Oct. 15, 1,311
applicants have been ruled ineligible, and an additional 5,617 must
complete a waiting period before they become eligible.

Students can lose one year of federal aid eligibility for a first
conviction on a drug-possession charge, and two years for a second
conviction. They can be suspended indefinitely for a third conviction.

About 790,000 applicants initially failed to answer the question of
whether they had been convicted of using drugs when they filled out
their student aid applications. But the Education Department contacted
many of those students, and the number of those who have not yet
answered is now down to 275,000.

Department officials allowed college and university administrators to
award aid this year to those who left the question blank, but warned
those students to alert the department of any drug convictions or risk
penalties for lying on their forms.

The drug-conviction restriction was imposed by Congress when it
renewed the Higher Education Act in 1998. The provision denies aid to
students who have been convicted in state or federal court of
possessing or selling drugs.

Kristi Ringor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Students Association in
Washington, said her organization fought the policy and remains
opposed to it.

"It denies access to education to those who need it most," she said.
"It is not a sound anti-drug policy."
- ---