Frequently Asked Questions About the
Higher Education Act Drug Provision
- What is the Higher Education Act Drug
The Higher Education Act (HEA) was signed into law over
three decades ago by President Lyndon Johnson to open
the door to a college education for students to whom it
had previously been closed. It establishes federal financial
aid programs such as Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, Supplemental
Educational Opportunity Grants, PLUS Loans and Work-Study
Programs. The Act is periodically reviewed and updated
by Congress to ensure adequate funding and access to college
for millions of Americans. The 1998 revision to the
HEA included a new provision that has since blocked over
160,500 potential students from college opportunities
due to drug convictions hindering their Free Application
for Federal Student Aid.
- What is wrong with the new provision?
IT HURTS LOWER INCOME FAMILIES.
Denying financial aid to students hurts only those students
who need the aid, namely, children of lower income families.
Children of the well-to-do need not worry about losing
their college opportunities; they can afford the quality
legal representation necessary to avoid drug convictions
as well as the price of tuition without financial aid.
Young ex-offenders are likely to be adversely affacted
by Setbacks like the inability to raise money for tuition,
and may be sent into a downward spiral toward failure.
IT HAS A DISCRIMINATORY IMPACT.
In New York State, almost 95% of those in prison for drug
offenses are people of color, but the fact is that the
majority of people and the majority of drug users are
white. According to The Sentencing Project, African Americans,
who comprise approximately 13% of the population and 13%
of all drug users, account for more than 55% of those
convicted for drug offenses. There is no reason to believe
that the disproportionate racial impact of drug law enforcement
wont spread into the realm of higher education via
IT PUNISHES STUDENTS TWICE FOR THE SAME CRIME.
These would-be students having their aid cut already paid
whatever price the criminal justice system demands. It
doesnt make sense to continually punish young people
in such a way that limits their ability to get an education
and improve their lives. Additionally, judges handling
drug cases already have the option of denying drug offenders
federal benefits, and school administrators have the power
to expel problem students. These are the people who know
the students best, and they should be the ones who decide
their educational futures - not the federal government.
IT DOES NOT SUPPORT THE DRUG ABUSE TREATMENT PROGRAMS
IN WHICH IT PURPORTEDLY SEEKS TO ENROLL STUDENTS.
Studies reported by the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy show that for every $1 spent on treatment,
$7 is saved in criminal justice, health care, or welfare
costs that otherwise would be borne by society. But treatment
accounts for less than 15% of the drug control budget;
hence, most of those who need it dont get it. While
financial aid can be restored after successful completion
of a qualifying treatment program, the provision does
not allocate any money for treatment. The same students
who cant afford college without public aid are also
likely to be unable to afford private treatment, much
less to afford the cost in time off from work or school
necessary to participate in such programs.
IT WILL NOT SOLVE OUR NATION'S DRUG PROBLEM.
The goal of the Higher Education Act is to make it easier,
not more difficult, for all students to obtain a full
education. To limit the students eligible for federal
aid is counterproductive. Denying students the opportunity
for a college ducation brings us no closer to solving
the nation's drug problem; instead it only increases the
already destructive impact of the horribly misguided War
IT IGNORES THE MAJOR DRUG PROBLEM ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES.
The major drug problem in this country, on campuses and
elsewhere, is alcohol abuse. However, no one seriously
suggests that revoking eligibility for financial aid would
be a sensible approach to that very serious problem -
even though drinking is also an illegal activity for the
great majority of college students, who are under 21.
Additionally, the treatment provision is overly broad
and fails to distinguish between casual use and serious
abuse. The fact that a student has been caught smoking
a joint, for example, is no more an indicator of addiction
than underage drinking is an indicator of alcoholism.
- What student
governments support HEA reform?
- What is the
Coalition for HEA Reform?
- With whom can I speak for further information?
If you have any questions about the Higher
Education Act reform project, please contact David Guard
or telephone at (202) 293-8340.
- Where can I find the most recent campaign
Sign up for Drug War Chronicle,
DRCNet's free e-mail magazine, for weekly coverage of
the HEA reform effort and other drug policy news - http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/.
- What do I answer for FAFSA Question 31?
If you are unsure how to answer Question
31 of the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid
(FAFSA), see the worksheet
explaining how you need to answer.
Home | Webmaster | Contact us
Site Design by c3 Copyright © 2005 RaiseYourVoice.com, All rights reserved.