John W. Perry, June 24, 1963 - September 11, 2001

The John W. Perry Fund
Scholarships for Students Denied Federal Financial Aid Because of Drug Convictions

Introduction | Who will receive scholarships? | How to Apply |What does this law actually say? | Sign our petition to Congress |Fill Out the Pre-Application | Download the Full Application | Print a Brochure |How can you help? | Make a Donation | Contact the Perry Fund | About John Perry

Perry Fund PSA: mp3 wav

Applicants: Please fill out this short "pre-application" form first, then download, fill out and submit the full application (PDF format) to be considered for a scholarship. (We also accept correspondence directly from financial aid officers, family members, counselors and others involved in helping students affected by this law to attend school.) Please fill out as may of these questions as you feel comfortable answering. We won't disqualify any applicants at this stage for refusing to answer certain questions, but the more questions you answer now, the likelier it is that we will be able to consider your application on an expedited basis. The Perry Fund values your privacy, and we will not share your name or any other identifying information with anyone without your permission.

First Name  
Last Name  
Company or School (include your first choice if not enrolled)  
Address 1  
Address 2  
Zip Code  
E-mail Address  
Please describe your interest in the Perry Fund    
What is the first semester for which you or someone you know are seeking funding?    
Are you currently enrolled in college?    
Were you enrolled in college and receiving federal aid at the time you committed any of the drug offenses of which you were convicted?  
  (If you weren't enrolled in school at the time, you should be eligible for federal aid.)    
How many drug possession convictions do you have on your record?    
How many drug sales/distribution convictions do you have on your record?    
What was the date of your last drug conviction?    
How did you hear about the Perry Fund?  
Please leave any comments you have here.  
Are you potentially willing to speak with Media? (This is not a requirement.)  


    In 1998, Congress enacted an amendment to the Higher Education Act that denies loans, grants, even work study jobs to tens of thousands of would-be students every year who have drug convictions. All these young people, who have already been punished once for their offenses, are being forced to spend more time working to pay for school, reducing their course loads or dropping out of school entirely.

    In response to this situation, the DRCNet (Drug Reform Coordination Network) Foundation, in association with Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other friends of civil liberties, has created the John W. Perry Fund. By providing assistance to a few of the people who have lost aid under this law, the Perry Fund makes a statement to build opposition to the law among the public and in Congress and let thousands of young people around the country know about the campaign to repeal it.

    Who will receive scholarships?

    The John W. Perry Fund awards scholarships of up to $2,000 per semester to students affected by the HEA drug provision (also known as the "Aid Elimination Penalty"), who have the greatest financial need (educational expenses less other available resources), but also for whom our assistance will be most likely to be effective in enabling them to both attend and succeed in school. Applicants have the option to spend scholarship funds on drug treatment programs to restore their eligibility for federal aid; however, applicants are encouraged to use this option only if they have an actual substance abuse problem.

    The government's own financial aid worksheet (e.g. the FAFSA) is one tool used to assess an applicant's need, but the fund also considers individual circumstances and experiences that may have placed especially great obstacles in the way of a given student's ability to pursue higher education (e.g., socioeconomic disadvantage, physical or learning disability, incarceration, drug addiction, etc.).

    More than 200,000 students or would-be students have officially been denied aid since the drug provision was enacted, plus an unknown number who didn't apply because they rightly or wrongly believed they were ineligible. Aid denied annually is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Thgouh the Perry Fund can directly help only a small fraction of the students affected by this law, the Fund is also a strategic component of a larger plan to raise awareness and help students until the law is repealed:

    • The fund may share applicants' info (with permission) with scholarship providers and community foundations to turn our handful of awards into many more.
    • The fund makes the campaign to repeal the HEA drug provision known to students around the country who have been harmed by the drug war. (Participation in the advocacy campaign s not be a condition of, nor an advantage in applying for a scholarship, but some applicants and awardees have gotten involved, some as much-needed spokespersons in the media campaign.)
    • The fund lets interested students know how to form Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters to work on this and other drug war issues.
    How to apply for a scholarship

    We still have money to give away for the 2008-2009 school year -- definitely for the spring, possible for the fall if you are in school but have special circumstances that are making things difficult. Please contact us and apply as soon as possible.

    To apply for a Perry Fund scholarship, first fill out our line pre-application form online. Then, download an application in PDF format, or contact us at or (202) 362-0030 if you need a copy by mail or fax. Next, fill out the Drug Conviction Worksheet.

    We also recommend (but do not require) that you fill out a FAFSA federal financial aid application and send us a copy, and we request that you send us a copy of your SAR or FAFSA student aid report if the Dept. of Education sent you one. We will begin to process your application without these documents, but may have to contact you for additional financial information.

    Send your completed application with the Drug Question Worksheet output to: The John W. Perry Fund, c/o DRCNet Foundation, 1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20009. You may also e-mail the requested information to or fax your application to (202) 362-0032. If you're not sure of the answers to all of the questions on our application, send in what you can now, and add the rest as soon as possible.

    We also accept correspondence and applications directly from financial aid officers, parents and other advisors as well as from students.

    What does this law actually say?

    Section 484, subsection r of the Higher Education Act of 1998 (HEA) delays or denies federal student financial aid eligibility to applicants with any misdemeanor or felony drug conviction. Applicants with a single possession conviction lose eligibility for one year from conviction date; those with a second possession conviction or one sales conviction lose eligibility for two years; and three possession convictions or two sales convictions cost an applicant eligibility indefinitely. In early 2006 the law was scaled back to be limited to offenses committed while a student is enrolled in college and receiving federal Title IV aid.

    Students enrolling in an approved drug treatment program can regain eligibility upon completing it. However, the measure neither provides funds for these generally expensive programs, nor distinguishes between mere use and true substance abuse. (Legislation passed by Congress in 2008 should now allow students to regain aid by taking two unannounced drug tests administered by a treatment program.) Would-be students who merely experimented with marijuana, for example, might be unable to find a program willing to accept them; or instead, might take up scarce slots needed by actual addicts seeking help.

    How can you help?

    You can help by making a generous contribution to the DRCNet Foundation for the John W. Perry Scholarship Fund, by letting would-be students affected by the drug provision know about the fund and helping them aplly, and by getting involved in the campaign to repeal the drug provision once and for all.

    The John W. Perry Fund is now accepting applications. The fund gratefully accepts contributions of any size, large or small. Checks should be made payable to DRCNet Foundation, with "scholarship fund" or "John W. Perry Fund" written in the memo or accompanying letter. The DRCNet Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, and your contribution will be tax-deductible as provided by law. Our mailing address is: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Please let us know if we may list your name or organization as a contributor in our publicity materials.

    You can also help by joining the campaign to repeal the HEA drug provision and restoring financial aid to all the tens of thousands of students affected by this law every year, or by starting a Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter to work on HEA and other drug war issues. Visit and for further information.

    About John Perry

    John William Perry was a New York City police officer and a Libertarian Party and ACLU activist who spoke out against the "war on drugs." He was also a lawyer, athlete, actor, linguist and humanitarian. On the morning of September 11, John Perry was at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan filing retirement papers when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Without hesitation he went to help, losing his life rescuing others. This scholarship program, which addresses a drug war injustice, is dedicated to his memory. John Perry's academic achievements are also an inspiring example for students: He was fluent in several languages, graduated from NYU Law School and prosecuted NYPD misconduct cases for the department.


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