HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drug Convictions Cost Students Their Financial Aid
Pubdate: Mon, 17 Apr 2006
Source: USA Today (US)
Page: 3A
Copyright: 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
Note: SSDP's state-by-state report and data may be downloaded from
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Cited: American Civil Liberties Union
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)


Can Regain Eligibility If They Complete Rehab

WASHINGTON -- One in every 400 students applying for federal 
financial aid for college is rejected because of a drug conviction, 
an analysis of Department of Education numbers by a drug policy 
overhaul group found.

A study to be released today by Students for Sensible Drug Policy 
says 189,065 people have been turned down for financial aid since the 
federal government added a drug conviction question to the financial 
aid form in the 2000-01 school year.

A September report from the Government Accountability Office shows 
that in the 2003-04 academic year, about 41,000 applicants for 
federal student aid were disqualified because of drug convictions.

A student can regain eligibility, however, by completing a 
rehabilitation program that includes random drug tests.

"In the majority of cases, students retain their eligibility," 
Education Department spokeswoman Valerie Smith says.

The aid analysis, compiled by the student group from data released 
last week by the Department of Education, notes that Indiana has the 
highest percentage of rejections, with one in 200 students denied 
financial aid because of drug convictions.

Indiana Rep. Mark Souder, a Republican and the author of the 
legislation, says it makes no difference how the states rank.

"The principle remains the same: the American taxpayer should not be 
subsidizing the educations of those students who are convicted of 
dealing or using illegal drugs," Souder said in a statement provided Sunday.

Other states ranking above the national average are Oregon, 
California, Washington, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Connecticut, 
Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Iowa and Alaska.

"I think it's important that all members (of Congress) know exactly 
how many of their constituents' lives have been ruined by this 
policy," says Tom Angell, campaigns director for Students for 
Sensible Drug Policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the 
constitutionality of the law in federal court.

"This is the only offense for which one can be denied financial aid," 
says attorney Adam Wolf of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project based in 
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Congress passed a law in 1998 that made drug convictions a 
disqualification for receiving aid. Students must now answer, "Have 
you ever been convicted of possession or selling illegal drugs?" when 
filling out their application.

Students who do not answer the question are disqualified.

A student convicted for drug possession is ineligible for aid for one 
year for a first offense, two years for a second offense and 
indefinitely for three or more offenses. A student convicted of 
selling drugs is ineligible for two years for a first offense and 
indefinitely for two or more offenses. 
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