Pubdate: Thu, 01 Nov 2007
Source: New Paltz Oracle (SUNY, NY Edu)
Author: John Vixon
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)


Bill Bans Aid To Students With Drug Convictions

Congress is looking to reauthorize a law that bans students with drug
convictions from receiving financial aid.

According to a press release from Tom Angell, general relations
director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) in Washington
D.C., the Higher Education Act was enacted in 1998 and has affected an
estimated 200,000 students.

"It's supposed to be reviewed every five years and it hasn't been in
nine," said Gretchen Duerr, a sophomore English major and president of
the SSDP Chapter on campus.

National protests were conducted by members of SSDP and others
supporters during the week of Oct. 15 to Oct. 19 to oppose the bill.
They asked people to fill out postcards to the legislators on Capital
Hill to try and repeal it.

"I'll be tabling as much as I can this week as well," said Duerr.
"Basically we are trying to raise awareness about the issue on campus."

Many students disagree with the bill refusing aid to students with
drug convictions.

"I was in total support of SSDP tabling to call senators," said
freshman art studio major Adam Gordon, a member of SSDP.

James Belvin, a freshman, wasn't aware of the bill, but feels the
repercussions are damaging.

"I don't know much about the act," Belvin said. "[but] I wouldn't want
to be caught with anything."

"Students across the country are joining together for one common goal:
stopping the War on Drugs from becoming a War on Education," said Kris
Krane, SSDP's executive director. "Blocking access to education isn't
just unfair to the individual students who are affected. The aid
elimination penalty causes more - not less - drug abuse and crime in
our society by limiting young people's opportunities for success."

Ben Schollnick, a junior political science major, agreed that the War
on Drugs in America is a primary cause from the bill.

"It's all a part of the greater aim of the drug war," Schollnick said.
"If you're smart enough to be here [in college], you should be smart
enough not to get caught."

Along with its penalties, there are other factors related to the bill
that Duerr feels are unjust.

"The major problem with it is that it only affects people who are
already poor," said Duerr. "It's basically a way for the government to
keep poor people poor.while kids who can barely pay for community
college are forced to go back to the streets where they will
theoretically get into harder drugs and commit crimes."

It is also implied by the Higher Education Act that people charged
with serious crimes, such as murderers, rapists, arsonists and
burglars are not ineligible for receiving student loans and grants.

"If somebody can get away with sexual assault, then they shouldn't get
punished for a drug charge," said Gordon.

Duerr strongly believes that students, politicians and the public will
start reacting to this law soon, students and politicians alike.

"Most people are pretty disturbed by the law," said Duerr. "Everyone
is affected by it; if not directly they know someone who might be."

To find out more about the Higher Education Act, visit or attend SSDP meetings Wednesdays at 9:30
p.m. in SUB 418.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin