Pubdate: Thu, 20 Apr 2006
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Section: Metro
Copyright: 2006 The Daily Iowan
Author: Bryce Bauer
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)
Bookmark: (Youth)


For the last five years, current and hopeful UI students caught 
toking up in their dorms, in a back alley, or at a Dave Matthews Band 
concert could've lost their student aid - and 2,367 of them from Iowa did.

The Hawkeye state ranked 12th in the nation in terms of students 
denied financial aid because of a drug conviction, according to a 
report released by the Department of Education at the request of 
Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

However, the student group and others say the accuracy of the numbers 
- - which come from prospective students in the United States and 
internationally - could be much higher because students can be 
deterred from applying or will simply lie on the Free Application for 
Federal Student Aid form.

"Dishonesty goes with the game when you are dealing with drugs," said 
Christopher Randolph, a doctoral intern with the UI Counseling Service.

Randolph, who likened the government's program to a "lifetime 
sentence," said drug-recovery programs often stress the importance of 
telling the truth and being honest about the student's drug addiction.

"I think it would put a student who is recovering in quite a bind," he said.

While the Department of Education has no authority - or even a simple 
mechanism to cross-check drug convictions - the federal financial aid 
form states anyone giving "false or misleading" information could be 
fined $20,000 and/or sent to prison.

However, some have proposed different types of changes.

"We in financial aid have long said [drug punishment] should not be 
tied to whether or not the student should get financial aid," said 
Cathy Wilcox, senior associate director of the Office of Student 
Financial Aid. "It presents a hardship for people who want to better 

Wilcox's contention is one shared by Randolph.

"It seems a little harsh," he said, "especially when there are other options."

Randolph proposed a system of "probational financial aid," in which 
the student with the conviction would still be eligible for 
government funds but would be monitored to ensure they didn't abuse 
again and received good grade.

"I'd like to see more a more rehabilitation aspect," he said.

In Iowa, 2,367 - or 0.259 percent - of applicants were denied 
admittance out of a state pool of 915,034, over the past five years, 
the report states.

The overall denial average for the same time frame is 0.246 percent, 
with 189,065 of 74,784,347 applicants denied for past drug transgressions.

The state with the most denials was Indiana, at .500 percent. The 
least was Vermont, at .118 percent.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman