New Higher Ed. Drug Policy Goes into Effect Feb. 1

New Higher Ed. Drug Policy Goes into Effect Feb. 1
Posted by FoM on February 01, 2000 at 21:56:51 PT
By Ben Pressentin, Badger Herald U. Wisconsin
Source: U-WIRE
A new federal drug-conviction policy may make it more difficult for some students to receive financial aid in the near future. The drug-conviction provision was placed at the end of the Higher Education Act, which was passed in 1998, and will go into effect Feb 1. The new policy stipulates that a student will not be eligible for financial aid for at least one year if convicted of a drug-related offense. 
The law is even harsher on dealers, who will be ineligible for financial aid for two years after a conviction. "Blocking access to education is counterproductive," said Jacob Davis, a representative of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. "These past drug offenders are trying to enter mainstream society, and blocking their entrance does absolutely no good." Davis isn't the only one who feels that ineligibility for financial aid isn't an appropriate punishment. "There is very little related between financial aid and a drug problem in general," said Steve VanEss, director of UW-Madison Financial Services. "If someone commits a drug-related offense, issue them a drug-related penalty." "What you end up with is a group of people who aren't experts in the area of drug rehabilitation left making decisions about the effectiveness of various treatments," VanEss said. While drugs and financial aid don't seem to have much in common, the idea was to make the students accountable to the taxpayers who provide the financial aid, as proposed by the provision's leading proponent, Mark Souder, R-Ind. This bill may also have a large impact on various minority groups. Currently, 73.7 percent of African-American college students rely on financial aid, while only 56 percent of white students rely on such funding. "This bill will hurt working families who may not be able to support a child who is a drug offender, which shows that there are obviously class and racial biases," Davis said. The Department of Education, which is in charge of enforcing this provision, said it will not outright ask if students have been convicted, but instead will merely ask students if they "are eligible" instead of prying into their criminal histories. "The negative check-off system is the one good thing about this plan," VanEss said. "At least the school doesn't have to scour the newspapers looking for drug convictions." Whether or not the policy will really work may all come down to how the students perceive the threat at hand. "If a student is convicted of a drug-related crime while in school and their financial aid is revoked, they might just not care and decide to drop out of school altogether, especially if they have no other way of paying for their education," sophomore Arne Thompson said. When all the numbers are finally tallied, perhaps this new provision will not have made a severe impact on the UW student body . "Hopefully the impact will be very little overall," VanEss said. "But for the drug offenders themselves, the impact will be enormous." (U-WIRE) Madison, Wis. Published: January 27, 2000(C) 2000 Badger Herald via U-WIRECopyright  1995-2000 Excite Inc.Related Articles & Web Site:Students For Sensible Drug Policy Cracks Down on Aid for Student Drug Offenders - 2/01/2000 With Drug Convictions Will Soon Be Denied-11/02/99
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