Pubdate: Tue, 26 Oct 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press


WASHINGTON-Students convicted of drug offenses will be barred from receiving
federal college tuition aid for one year from date of conviction and,
in some cases, permanently under rules taking effect next summer.

The regulations are based on a law enacted last year to reduce waste
in the student loan system. They do not apply to juvenile records, and
some students will be able to retain eligibility by completing drug
rehabilitation or by having their convictions overturned.

Students must report any drug convictions on forms for federal
financial aid, including Pell grants and student loans. Some student
groups complain that the new rules are counterproductive.

"It's kind of backward to deal with a drug policy by denying people an
education," said Jamie Pueschel, a 1998 college graduate who is now
legislative director of the Washington-based U.S. Student

Justice Department officials say there's no database designating
student drug offenses, but a statement released by Sen. Judd Gregg,
R-N.H., cites a University of Michigan study that said 33.5 percent of
college students had used illegal drugs in 1995.

A recent nationwide survey indicated that drug use among young adults
ages 18 to 25 has risen in the last five years, with 16.1 percent, or
4.5 million, saying they were current users of an illegal drug,
meaning they had used the drug in the month before they were surveyed.

D. Jean Veta, the Education Department's deputy general counsel, had
no estimate for how many students the regulations could affect, but
added: "If we find out a student has lied, we not only require
repayment of any aid received, but the student would be at risk for
prosecution for lying to the federal government.

"We are very concerned about students being truthful about all aspects
of the financial aid application," Veta said.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who unsuccessfully sought to limit the
student loan legislation, said such provisions could unfairly affect
young people who were not serious drug users.

"Obviously if someone is a drug dealer or a serious user, that is a
reason to say no," Frank said Monday. "This kind of blanket ban is a

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which opposes the law, plans to
meet in Washington for a conference on that and other issues next month.

Under the regulations, which were released last Friday, a first
possession conviction will block aid for a year, while a sales
conviction will bar aid for two years. Students convicted of
possessing drugs for a second time will lose aid for two years; a
third time, permanently. A student convicted twice of selling drugs
will lose aid permanently.

Colleges won't have to police their students. Instead, students will
be asked to report their own criminal records on aid forms subject to
review by federal officials. Students must complete forms in each year
of eligibility with other self-reported information such as income and
academic status, Veta said.

Convictions occurring after students apply for aid but before July 1,
when the rules take effect, may result in the loss of eligibility. For
example, a first drug-possession conviction Feb. 1 would make a
student ineligible for aid from July 1, 2000, until Feb. 1, 2001.

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