Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2006
Source: Sidelines, The (TN Edu)
Copyright: 2006 Middle Tennessee State University
Author: Erika Davis
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)


A federal law preventing college students convicted of drug violation
may keep students convicted of past drug violations from receiving
financial aid.

"About 3 students this school year couldn't get aid because of their
drug convictions," said David Chambers, associate director of the
Student Aid Office. "It's not fair to single out students who have
drug related offense."

"Have you ever been convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs?"
is question 31 on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
application, the form used by the government to determine eligibility
for financial aid.

If a student answers yes, the government sends a worksheet to the
student, who will then fill out and return the form. The government
will take the form and determine whether or not your conviction
affects eligibility for financial aid.

However, an organization was formed to protest the law. The group,
Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is a nonprofit organization whose
goal is to overturn the law.

SSDP has roughly 70 school chapters in high schools, community
colleges and four-year universities.

"Our first chapter was in 1998 at the Rochester Institute of
Technology in New York," said Tom Angell, SSDP campaign director. "We
realized that the war on drugs targets young people and that it was
taking away aid from students with drug convictions."

On Nov. 17 through 19, the national group, along with members of their
chapters, will hold an international conference in Washington D.C. to
discuss the issue of denying financial aid to students with past drug

"Around 300 activists from Canada and the U.S. will discuss the war on
drugs ending on campuses, and they will talk about how students from
the chapters can talk to the media on these issues," Angell said. "On
Friday, Nov. 17 our students will meet and talk to legislatives on
Capitol Hill."

The history of the law extends to the Higher Education Act of 1965, a
law supported by President Lyndon Johnson to increase the
affordability of individuals in low-income households to help pay for
postsecondary education.

Pell Grants and Stafford loans were created in response to the law for
students to continue their education.

The "Drug Provision" was added as an amendment to the HEA in 1998 and
excluded students with drug convictions from receiving aid.

Recently congress decided to reword the law to read that if a student
is attending college and they get convicted of drug violations while
receiving federal aid, they will have their aid canceled.

The law was also altered to read that if a student has a drug
conviction before attending college then they are eligible to receive
aid after review of their FAFSA form.

According to the SPPD Web site, 175,000 students have already been
disqualified from receiving aid.

The law itself applies to minor convictions, like misdemeanors, as
well as major violations like felonies. The site continues to note
that students with possession of a controlled substance as a first
offense will receive one year ineligibility. A second offense equals
two-years of ineligibility and a third offense will result in a
student eligibility becoming indefinite.

However, a student can get their financial aid back if they complete a
drug rehabilitation program. The cost of the program is not provided
and must be paid out of pocket by the student.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin