Pubdate: Thu, 28 Apr 2005
Source: Arkansas Traveler, The (AR Edu)
Copyright: 2005 The Arkansas Traveler
Author: Heather Vaughn


Associated Student Government passed a resolution Tuesday that will allow
the organization, along with several other institutions, to lobby Congress
with to repeal an amendment made to the Higher Education Act of 1965, which
currently denies students with past drug offenses financial assistance.

Resolution 41 states that Congress passed an amendment in 1998 authored by
Rep. Mark Souder that denies federal financial aid to any student with a
drug conviction.

"Judges already have the discretion, on a case-by-case basis, to remove the
student's eligibility for federal funding," said Sen. Jason Polk, author and
sponsor of Resolution 41. "The provisions of the [legislation] are unfair,
discriminatory, and counterproductive."

The Higher Education Act is a "blanket policy" for every student, no matter
what the circumstances, according to the resolution.

Similar laws regarding the distribution of federal financial aid make it
illegal to deny financial aid based on any other criminal conviction,
including murder, rape or aggravated assault.

Sen. Kathryn Cottrell, co-sponsor of Resolution 41, supported the
legislation in its efforts to extend federal aid to more individuals seeking
higher education.

"I believe that an education is vital to a person who is trying to better
their lives and get on the right track again," she said.

Sen. Kris Zibert, newly elected Chair of ASG Senate, passed the resolution
with a majority of the Senate voting in the affirmative but was on the
opposing side of the legislation.

"I personally think that giving money to people with drug convictions is a
bad investment from an economic standpoint," he said. "Nine times out of 10,
society won't get the return on the tax payer's money. However, the Senate
thinks it is a worthy cause and I will support the Senate's decisions."

Limiting the ability of an individual who has been convicted of a drug
offense to change the course of his or her life for the better by seeking
higher education discourages individuals who have been convicted of such
crimes from making such changes, according to the resolution.

"The passage of this resolution will help to sway more of the votes in
Congress in favor of repealing [the Souder-amendment,]" Polk said. "This
[legislation] will help by giving [the repeal of this amendment] our
political support."

If this legislation passes through Congress, those students who may have
experimented with drugs when they were younger would now be able to receive
aid, Cottrell said.

"I don't think this will encourage drug use, it will just be more of an
incentive to stop so that one may pursue an education," she said. "I think
those in higher political arenas always appreciate their constituents
concerns. Hopefully, they will weigh our concern in their decision come
voting time."

According to Resolution 41, a copy of the legislation will be sent by Sen.
Polk on behalf of ASG and the UA student body to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Sen.
Mark Pryor, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Congressmen John Boozman, Marion Berry,
Vic Snyder, as well as Mayor Dan Coody and Tom McCarthy, Fayetteville Chief
of Police 
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