Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jan 2002
Source: Poughkeepsie Journal (NY)
Copyright: 2002 Poughkeepsie Journal
Author: Walter F. Wouk
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)


According to a recent report by The Associated Press, 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 state, 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 begs the
question, how many students were wrongfully discouraged from applying for
federal aid because of the omission? 

Walter F. Wouk, Director, The Thomas Paine Project

- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk