HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Bush To Enforce Financial Aid Drug Law
Pubdate: Tue, 17 Apr 2001
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/27
Author: Ken Maguire, Associated Press Writer

BUSH TO ENFORCE FINANCIAL AID DRUG LAW

The Bush administration has decided to enforce a previously ignored law 
denying federal financial aid to college students with drug convictions.

Hundreds of thousands of applicants who did not answer a drug conviction 
question on their applications were not denied aid during the Clinton 
administration, despite the law saying they should have been.

Now, failure to answer the question will result in rejection of the 
application.

"Congress passed legislation and our department is obliged to carry out 
that legislative direction," Education Department spokeswoman Lindsey 
Kozberg said Tuesday.

Critics say the law unfairly punishes less wealthy applicants because they 
are the ones who need financial aid and encourages people with drug 
convictions to lie.

"If they tell the truth, they're not going to get their aid; but if they 
lie, they are going to get their aid," said Shawn Heller, director of 
Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "It sets a terrible example."

Officials acknowledge there's little defense against lying because they 
lack resources to check all 10 million applications received annually. 
Instead, they conduct random audits.

Education Secretary Rod Paige and financial aid officials decided late last 
month they would enforce the law beginning with the 2001-02 application 
pool, Kozberg said. The cycle began in January.

The law withholds grants, loans or work assistance from people convicted, 
under federal or state law, of possession or sale of controlled substances. 
It does not include alcohol or tobacco.

A first offense possession conviction makes a student ineligible for aid 
for one year after the date of conviction and a second offense for two 
years. A third possession conviction results in indefinite ineligibility. 
Drug sale convictions bring tougher penalties.

The 1998 measure, authored by Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., took effect last 
July. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has filed a bill to overturn it.

The Clinton administration ignored it because of a processing backlog 
created when nearly 1 million applicants skipped the question.

In the 2000-01 cycle, nearly 300,000 applicants who ultimately refused to 
answer still received aid, despite the law. Only 8,620 answered yes and 
were denied aid.

Compliance this cycle has improved, thanks to a new line in the application 
instructing people that it's mandatory to answer the question.

Of 4 million applications so far, only 14,800 have refused to answer. An 
additional 27,000 revealed a drug conviction, but nearly half were 
determined still eligible after completing an eligibility worksheet, a 
department spokesman said.

On the Net: Education Department: http://www.ed.gov/Welcome/index.html

Students for Sensible Drug Policy: http://www.ssdp.org/

Rep. Barney Frank: http://www.house.gov/frank

Rep. Mark Souder: http://www.house.gov/souder
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