After seven years of sustained student activism, Congress finally gave financial aid back to some college students with drug convictions today. Unfortunately, tens of thousands will be left behind without the aid they need to go to school.
To make sure you stay up-to-date on all the latest Drug War news, sign up for SSDP's periodic e-mail alerts.
Here's SSDP's press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 1, 2006
CONTACT: Tom Angell – 202.293.4414, 202.557.4979, or tom//at//ssdp.org
Congress Softens Drug Conviction Penalty
Some Students Denied Financial Aid Will Regain Eligibility
Students Left Behind to File Suit Claiming Law is Unconstitutional
WASHINGTON, DC – Today Congress scaled back the law that strips financial aid from college students with drug convictions. The change to the Higher Education Act allows some students with past offenses to receive aid, but those convicted while enrolled in college will still lose eligibility. The law has affected more than 175,000 students, and some of those left behind by the change are working with the ACLU to challenge the penalty’s constitutionality in court.
“After years of political posturing and empty promises, Congress has finally helped some students harmed by this misguided policy,” said Kris Krane, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “But this minor change is just a ploy to sweep the penalty’s problems under the rug. Tens of thousands of students will still be pulled out of school every year because politicians failed to listen to our concerns. The only option students have left is to take action in court.”
The revision to the HEA Drug Provision is included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which Congress previously approved late last year. Today’s House vote was a procedural one sending the measure to the President’s desk. The Drug Provision was originally enacted in 1998.
In January 2005, the congressionally-created Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance recommended that the drug conviction question be completely removed from the financial aid application, calling it “irrelevant” to aid eligibility. The committee also stated that the drug question’s mere presence on the form deters countless eligible students from applying. Under today’s change, aid applicants will still have to answer a drug conviction question.
Last week SSDP filed a separate lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education over a Freedom of Information Act inquiry into the number of students in each state who have lost aid due to drug convictions. The government refused to grant SSDP a fee waiver, claiming the information could lead to drug legalization and that the nonprofit group may profit from it.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization with college and high school chapters, is part of a coalition supported by more than 250 education, addiction recovery, criminal justice, civil rights, and religious organizations seeking the full repeal of the HEA Drug Provision. For a list, see http://www.ssdp.org/campaigns/hea/StudentGovernmentOrgEndorsers.pdf.
# # #