Anti-Drug Law Backfires 

Anti-Drug Law Backfires 
Posted by FoM on April 25, 2002 at 08:40:47 PT
Source: USA Today
When Congress passed a law four years ago taking federal financial aid away from college students who had been convicted of drug crimes, it was hailed as a miracle cure. "The best thing we can do for education is to get somebody clean and then get them back into school," said Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., the law's chief sponsor.Not a bad goal. But the supposed benefits haven't materialized. Instead, the law has sparked countermeasures at several universities and protests on more than 80 campuses by students who are seeing other results.
Among the most problematic: While the most trivial drug offenses can cost students their chance for a college education, students who commit rape, robbery and murder face no such outcome. So the sponsors' stated goal of showing that actions have consequences is scoffed at. By withholding federal financial aid, the program hurts low-income students with drug convictions who can't afford to attend college without aid. Wealthier students with similar convictions are not penalized if they don't depend on federal financial aid. By refusing aid to students who have already been punished for drug crimes, the law "undermines the process" in which colleges offer students a fresh start, says Hampshire College President Gregory Prince Jr.After the Bush administration began aggressively enforcing the law, which had been largely ignored, more than 15,000 students with drug records lost financial aid for all or part of this year. Another 10,000 who failed to answer a question on government loan applications about whether they had a drug conviction also were denied aid. The vast majority of the students penalized have family incomes of $30,000 or less.To counteract the lost aid, Yale decided this month to make up the dollars while a student undergoes a rehabilitation program that can reopen the door to federal aid. A handful of other schools have set up similar scholarship or loan programs. Hampshire, for example, has a loan fund of $10,000 available to students hurt by the drug law. Meanwhile, student governments, from George Washington University in the nation's capital to the Berkeley in the West, have passed resolutions denouncing the law.But such efforts don't touch the vast majority of students at the nation's 7,000 colleges. Students who attend schools that can't or won't compensate for this faulty federal statute miss out on the college education the federal aid programs were designed to provide to the neediest students.The law's supporters argue that if aid goes to a student with a drug record, less money is left for law-abiding students. Their reasoning is a stretch. The aid is from an "entitlement program," and no student eligible based on family income is turned away.Even Souder recognizes its problems and favors amending it so that it applies only to students already in college when they commit a drug offense.Better to get rid of the law altogether. Otherwise, college students are taught a damaging lesson: that low-income students must pay twice for their crimes.Source: USA Today (US)Published: April 25, 2002Copyright: 2002 USA Today a division of Gannett Co. Inc.Contact: editor usatoday.comWebsite: Articles:Drugs and Colleges Not Mixing To Help Convicted Drug Users, Sellers Is Responsible for Students Losing Education? 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #2 posted by el_toonces on April 26, 2002 at 13:40:27 PT:
I would not say you're too...
...cynical. Hell, I think Rep. Souder is a reform hero of the year for 2001. By taking the "war" to the middle class, its end may come more quickly. Though I was young, I recall support for our war in Vietnam ended around the time poeple like my own mother started talking about sending her sons to Canada!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by WolfgangWylde on April 26, 2002 at 04:34:37 PT
Ahh, yes, consequences should not reach TOO far...
One of the standard pillars of the Drug War is that it must not fall too heavily on the middle- and upper-classes, otherwise, they will no longer support it. Inner city youths face death and destruction on a daily basis because of the Drug War, but lets make sure that lil' Johnny and Janey Suburbia don't lose thier financial aid.
(Yes, I am THAT cynical).
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment