Pubdate: Fri, 04 Jan 2002
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Gazette Newspapers
Author: Walter F. Wouk
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)
Bookmark: (Youth)


According to The Associated Press (Dec. 29 story), more than 43,000 college 
students face possible denials of federal aid this year under a 1998 law 
that bans such help to people who have drug convictions.

The ban involves a small fraction of the more than 10 million people a year 
who fill out applications for federal grants, work-study funds or 
subsidized loans.

Question 35 asks, "Have you ever been convicted of possessing or selling 
illegal drugs?" Those who answer yes are given a second worksheet that asks 
for details.

There's a cunning omission in Question 35. Applicants are not informed that 
it refers to misdemeanor or felony convictions - not violations.

Many states have decriminalized marijuana, and possession of small amounts 
is not a misdemeanor or felony offense. In New York, for example, 
possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less is a violation; so the 
applicant can correctly answer no to Question 35.

That is a salient point that should be clarified on the financial aid 
questionnaire. The fact that it isn't calls into question the motives of 
government officials, and raises the question: How many students were 
wrongfully discouraged from applying for federal aid because of the omission?

WALTER F. WOUK, Cobleskill
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