Pubdate: Sat, 11 Aug 2001
Source: Blade, The (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Blade
Author: Frank Cousins


I recently became aware of the Higher Education Act of 1998, which delays 
or denies federal financial aid to any student with any drug offense. 
Placing obstacles in the path to education is not a productive approach to 
the problem of substance abuse. This law discourages young people who have 
had minor legal troubles from taking the best step available for turning 
their lives around: education.

Here are some reasons the HEA drug provision is wrong.

Judges already have the power to rescind financial aid eligibility as 
individual cases warrant. The HEA drug provision removes that discretion. 
The vast majority of Americans convicted of a drug offense are convicted of 
nonviolent, low-level possession.

The HEA drug provision represents a penalty levied only on the poor and the 
working class; wealthier students will not have the doors of college closed 
to them for want of financial aid.

The provision will also have a disparate impact on different races. 
African-Americans, for example, who comprise 12 percent of the population 
and 13 percent of all drug users, account for more than 55 percent of those 
convicted of drug charges. No other class of offense carries automatic loss 
of financial aid eligibility.

Access to a college education is the surest route to the mainstream economy 
and a crime-free life. Congress is poised to debate H.R. 786, a bill to 
repeal this unfair act. Let's give these poor kids a second chance and make 
the "compassionate" Christian Congress responsible for its charitable claims.

Frank Cousins

Oak Harbor
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