Drug Provision Raises Heated Financial Debate 

Drug Provision Raises Heated Financial Debate 
Posted by FoM on December 02, 2000 at 14:03:44 PT
By Matt Carroll, Northern Star
Source: U-WIRE
A debate about financial aid and drug convictions has become a hot issue for colleges and universities all over the United States, including Northern Illinois University. A drug provision attached to the Higher Education Act and passed by Congress in 1998 denies financial aid to students who have been convicted of any drug offense, whether it's a felony or misdemeanor. John Hunter, interim University Police chief, said a drug misdemeanor includes possession of or smoking any amount of cannabis. 
"A drug felony, on the other hand, involves manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance including cocaine and heroin," he said. The Higher Education Act, created in 1965, gives students financial aid nationally through options such as Perkins loans, Pell grants and work-study programs. Steve Silverman, campus coordinator for the Drug-Reform Coordination Network, said the act is designed to help less-privileged students enter the mainstream economy and get an education. "Congress has denied certain students from receiving financial aid, and the law discriminates against the poor and working class because it doesn't affect the wealthy, who can go to school without financial aid," Silverman said. Don Lara, press secretary of the Education and Workforce Committee in Congress, said the provision was supported and initiated by Representative Mark Souder of Indiana. "Their main issue behind the focus on the drug provision was legislatures' fear that actual financial aid funds would be used by drug abusers for purchasing drugs," Lara said. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid form contains a question asking students if they've been convicted of a drug offense. Kathy Johnson, a financial aid counselor at the Student Financial Aid Office, said students who don't answer the drug question or answer dishonestly are violating the law. "The financial aid office must abide by the rules that are handed down to them, and students filling out the financial aid application are to follow the directions provided," she said. According to the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, more than 7,000 students have lost financial aid because of the drug amendment. Silverman said last year, roughly 250,000 students failed to even answer the drug question on their applications for unknown reasons but still received their financial aid through a loophole in the system. Next year, students who don't answer will see their aid withheld until they answer truthfully, Johnson said. The drug provision was passed through Congress in part because it was grouped with other bills that were passed as a whole, Silverman said. Student governments all over the country have made attempts to repeal the specific drug catch, called H.R. 1053, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Pennsylvania State University and Illinois State University. Don Sevener, director of communications at the Illinois Board of Higher Education, believes that there were a number of reasons for implementing the drug provision on the Higher Education Act. "The drug provision was an effort to have one more weapon on the war on drugs," Sevener said. Andrew Epstein, president of Amherst College Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said politicians will listen when schools across the country get their student bodies to speak out against the drug rule. "There are a number of ways for concerned students to get involved in changing the current law in a number of ways," Silverman said. He suggested that students can write to members of Congress, encouraging them to reconsider the provision or get involved with their student government to pursue action. The bill can be appealed by members of the Congressional Education/Workforce Committee, which created the law, when it's opposed by a majority, or 49, of the committee members. "Students need to know how to raise their voice because there is a sense of urgency by putting an end to punishing students who tell the truth and set the law straight," Silverman said. Source: (U-WIRE) DeKalb, Ill.Author: Matt Carroll, Northern Star Northern Illinois U. Updated 12:00 PM ET November 30, 2000 (C) 2000 Northern Star via U-WIRE Related Articles:7,000 U.S. Students Forfeit All or Part of Aid Drugs are Bad, and So is Discrimination FAFSA Drug Question Unfair To Students 
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Comment #3 posted by aw3erasf on December 03, 2000 at 10:03:05 PT
Purchasing Drugs
""Their main issue behind the focus on the drug provision was legislatures' fear that actual financial aid funds would be used bydrug abusers for purchasing drugs," Lara said. "When are they going to start denying any financial aid to people conviction of alcohol offences (such as DUI, public intoxication, etc) so that they won't use it to purchase drugs?
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on December 02, 2000 at 22:19:10 PT
what's next?
 I know what you mean FreedomFighter.It becomes even more absurd when the law doesnt apply to a rapist or murderer. In the wonderful state of Florida,and several other states,anyone who is a convicted felon,loses their right to vote for life.I would not be suprized if we see some idiot natzi congressperson or senator introduce a law,that anyone convicted of a drug violation will lose their right to vote.......dddd
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Comment #1 posted by freedom fighter on December 02, 2000 at 19:43:03 PT
For the fourth time
I came back to the article.I am just sad because as a father of a 17 yr old boy, I know my son does not a chance for higher education because he already got caught. Is he supposed to not even answer this stupid question? Does anybody have that right either? They claimed that it is the Law that you must answer the question. Can I sue the government for discrimination?This is not right. My son is just a kid who happened to love herb and nothing else. And now, this bright kid does not have a chance of learning new things. I cannot afford the education for him. 7 thousands this year and by 5 years from now, a million of kids unable to try to improve themselves. This is just not good for any country in this world. Nothing good will come out of this. The law is desgined to prevent drug abusers from using the money to buy drugs. I challenge this assumption! Maybe one or two did this but this is in no way of a justice to million of users who actually does do use money for the education!Maybe I am so sad because I do actually have a living 17 yr old bright boy. Why is this happening? This is just not good!
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