College Students Take New Tack 

College Students Take New Tack 
Posted by FoM on March 25, 2002 at 08:34:03 PT
By Arlene Levinson, AP National Writer 
Source: Associated Press
Opponents of a 1998 law that denies federal aid to thousands of college students with criminal drug records are trying to work around the law by offering financial help to those affected.A coalition of drug-law reform groups plans Tuesday to inaugurate a scholarship for those denied aid because of drug records. The John W. Perry Fund scholarships honor a New York police officer who decried the war on drugs and died saving people in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
"He felt that adults should be able to do with their bodies whatever they wish, as long as they don't hurt anybody," said Perry's mother, Patricia Perry, of Seaford, N.Y."To punish students who are financially unable to get to college without this assistance is a travesty," she said. "John would very definitely be in favor of students like that."In the same vein, two colleges  Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania  are offering loans or grants to such students.Critics have assailed the law since its inception.The higher education lobby  student activists to college presidents  says the ban unfairly hits some of the people who need aid most, noting that affluent students with drug records don't need federal aid.Even the law's author, Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., says it's misinterpreted. He meant to bar aid only from students already getting federal aid when convicted, and last month proposed amending the law to make that clear.The application for federal student aid asks applicants, among other things, "Have you ever been convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs?"Those with one drug-possession offense are ineligible for federal college aid for one year after conviction. A second drug-possession or first drug-sale conviction means ineligibility for two years. More convictions bar aid indefinitely, unless the offender undergoes drug rehabilitation.By early March, 47,063 of the 10.5 million federal aid applicants for this school year face possible denial of aid for all or part of the year, or risk automatic rejection for not answering the conviction question, the U.S. Education Department says.Among the first 2 million aid applicants for next school year, 9,448 are at risk.Students opposed to the ban include Michele Butcher, a 21-year-old junior majoring in mining engineering at Southern Illinois University. She's already borrowed $10,000 in federal college loans and will need $8,000 more next year.Butcher put her education in jeopardy when police last year found marijuana in her sorority house bedroom, and again in her pocket during a traffic stop. Each time, she said, she persuaded the judge not to convict her and was instead placed on supervision."I got by very closely," Butcher acknowledged. Now cautious and fearful, she also feels the ban is wrong. "It's not the government's business what I do," she said.Hampshire College, after a campus-wide vote, three years ago created a loan for any student there denied federal aid because of a drug record. No one has tapped it yet, a spokeswoman said.Hampshire President Gregory Prince does not condone drugs but calls the ban "part of a larger pattern of the discriminatory impact, intended or not intended, that the drug policy has had on different communities, particularly minority communities."Last month, the governing board at Swarthmore College voted to make up the difference if any of its students can't get federal aid because of a drug conviction. The action hews to a school policy ensuring students' financial needs are met, a spokesman said. Few, if any, at Swarthmore are expected to need such help, he said.A fund-raiser is planned Tuesday in New York to launch the Perry scholarships. The organizer is David Borden, founder of the Drug Reform Coordination Network in Washington, which favors social control and regulation over punitive laws and is one of several groups involved in the effort.Borden hopes to raise $100,000 for scholarships of up to $2,000 each. While modest, for some it could mean whether they stay in school.Perry had subscribed to the e-mail list for Borden's group, which for a year had been planning the scholarships, Borden said. After Perry's death, his friends in the drug-law reform movement suggested naming the scholarship in tribute to him, he said.Perry, 38 when he died, was a lawyer before he joined the NYPD in the early 1990s. He pounded a beat before his assignment to the legal department going after crooked cops.He planned to return to law practice and was filing retirement papers at police headquarters when, on hearing of the attacks, he rushed to the World Trade Center.On the Net: Drug Reform Coordination Network: http://www.drcnet.orgNewshawk: Nicholas Thimmesch IINORML Media & CommunicationsSource: Associated PressAuthor: Arlene Levinson, AP National Writer Published: March 25, 2002Copyright: 2002 Associated PressRelated Articles:Applaud Souder's Efforts To Fight Drug Use To Protest Souder's Drug Policy
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Comment #1 posted by Dark Star on March 25, 2002 at 08:56:26 PT
Petty, Puerile, Putrid
47,063 of 10.5 million: That's 0.4%. The Feds probably waste a lot more money on toilet seats than they do offering loans to "druggies." We also are delighted to hear once again of Souder's contrition for his ill-conceived, vindictive legislation. Hopefully the voters will retire him to ripping people off in some other Amerikan business. 
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