Have Your Student Government
Vote for HEA Reform

Getting your student government (SG) to endorse the reform resolution (sample resolution) is the first step your campus can take towards reforming the Higher Education Act of 1998. This will show Congress that the student body at your campus supports overturning the provision of the HEA that denies or delays federal financial aid to drug offenders.

These step-by-step procedures are based on the feedback we've received from college activists working in the field. So your constant feedback is essential to the national planning of this campaign, as it will also allow us to direct any other inquiries that we get from your campus and local area to you. We strongly encourage you to get in touch with us at (202) 293-8340, or e-mail David Guard at [email protected].

HELPFUL HINT: Check to see if your SG is already on the list of schools that have passed the resolution. If it is, you should still read these tips before moving on, because they are essential to becoming an expert HEA reform advocate. You should also contact us, because we may be able to help you find out who was involved at the time and get you a copy of the original resolution too.



  1. Find a friend or two to join you. While it only takes one student to start an activist movement on campus, dividing up labor will reduce the time commitment needed. It's also more fun and rewarding to work with others.
  1. Print and study the HEA Frequently Asked Questions. Make sure you learn and feel comfortable talking about the fundamental problems with the HEA drug provision. You should also get acquainted with our list of Quick Responses to Tough HEA Questions, as these will be very useful when engaging potential opposition.

  2. Print the Students Reject Higher Education Act Drug Provision flyer. This includes the list of schools whose SG's have endorsed an HEA reform resolution. The bottom part includes the sample resolution, which you should encourage your SG to endorse.

  3. Call and get on your SG agenda. SG meetings can take place up to two months apart, so it is important to get on their agenda as soon as possible. Make sure you have about two weeks to prepare for the meeting. Find out the rules for introducing a resolution for endorsement, as some SG's will require you to have a student senator or representative introduce the measure.

  4. Try to meet face-to-face with one or more SG members to show them the resolution, and explain your position before you are scheduled tomake a presentation before the entire SG. Before going in, it is crucial to have some SG members and other allies on your side, so make nice.


  1. Hold a meeting. Invite your fellow students to speak their mind and ask questions about HEA reform. You could use this opportunity to start a campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). (See Activist's Toolbox: How to Assemble an Effective Meeting for suggestions.)

  1. Contact your campus newspaper(s). Tell reporters about your on-campus efforts, as well as the national campaign to repeal it. The earlier in the process you do this, the more attention you will focus on the issue and the more effective you will be. It only takes a few minutes to bring a press release down to your newspaper's office and offer yourself to be interviewed as a local contact. An article in your student paper lends credibility to your efforts. (See HEA Media Guide: How to Write a Press Release and How to Pitch Your Story.)

  1. Build a campus-wide coalition. Contact leaders of other student political organizations and ask them to endorse the resolution as well. Ask if you could give a brief presentation during one of their meetings in order to persuade them to join up. For example, student groups such the ACLU, NAACP, and NOW, whose national organizations have already come out against the HEA drug provision, should help. The strength of the relationships you establish with such sympathetic groups is a key to victory.

  1. Set up an information table in a high-traffic central campus location to collect student signatures on copies of the student petition. This will give you an excellent opportunity to perfect your persuasive skills and invite more people to your meetings. And because very few students really participate in student government, even a modest number of signatures will show them that there is significant interest in this issue on your campus. (See Activist's Toolbox: How to Table Effectively.)

  1. Customize and submit an op-ed to your campus paper in advance of your SG presentation or first meeting to raise awareness and add more credibility to your campaign. (See HEA Media Guide: How to Write an Op-Ed.)


To improve your chances of getting the resolution passed and expand your visibility, here are a few things you should do before you are scheduled to speak to your SG about HEA reform:

  1. Mail an information packet to all SG members one week before the hearing. Get the mailing address and phone numbers of every SG member, and mail the packet via campus mail to cut down on postage costs. The packet should include a typed and signed one-page cover letter with a brief explanation of who you are and why your are contacting them, a list of frequently asked questions, and a copy of our students reject higher education act drug provision flyer. You should also enclose a copy of the original drug provision, a copy of the repeal bill with cosponsors, and an article from a national publication covering the HEA reform campaign.

    This packet is important because you don't want to use your brief hearing time to teach the SG members the basics of the HEA drug provision. They should already know the major points from reading the packet, so you can focus on the broader moral issues.

  1. Call each SG member a few days after sending the packet to make sure they got it. If you get their voice mail, be ready to leave a concise message explaining who you are and why you are calling. If they answer the phone, be ready to deliver a brief pitch and answer any questions. This is a great opportunity to establish personal connections with individual SG members, which will make them more likely to support you when they vote. Be sure to remember their names, and greet them warmly before the hearing.

    BEWARE: Don't ever let your guard down because one supporter or friend within the SG tells you the endorsement is in the bag. We've been burnt by this, so don't get overconfident; get prepared.

  1. Send a media advisory to your campus and local papers a few days before the scheduled hearing. Follow up by making phone calls to local reporters the day of the hearing, and encourage them to attend. (See the HEA Media Guide: How to Write a Media Advisory.)

  1. Bring all of your friends and allies to the hearing. If you have to, tell your friends you'll clean their bathrooms if they attend. Whatever you do to get them there on time is up to you. The size of the crowd you assemble shows the SG that you in fact represent the interests of the students. They will hesitate to vote against you if they see you have a crowd on your side. Revisit Activist's Toolbox: How to Assemble an Effective Meeting to fill the room.

  1. Don't worry, you'll do fine. If you've done the previous steps, the hearing should be much less stressful, and the chances of your SG passing the resolution will be much higher. Make sure you know your arguments, and bring extra materials and articles for those who don't have them (See HEA News Archives).


  1. Key points to make: Get familiar with What is wrong with the new provision? and Quick Responses to Tough HEA Questions.

  1. Let your SG know they can make a difference.

    • a. Tell them that Congress is attacking college students because they don't believe we will stand up for ourselves. We must send a message that the War on Drugs must not become a War on Education. It is in the hands of students to take a stand and tell Congress to repeal this counterproductive and discriminatory law.

    • b. If your school's congressperson is a member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, be sure your SG understands that their support will have great persuasive power to influence a key federal decision maker.

    • c. Let your SG know that this resolution does not mean that you or your campus supports drug use. By backing the resolution you agree that removing educational opportunities is not a viable solution to youth drug abuse.

    HELPFUL HINT: You can alter the text of the resolution to reflect any concerns or issues specific to your SG if you think it will help to draw support or soothe critics.


    1. If the resolution passes send out a press release immediately. Edit our sample press release and have it ready to fax to your press list as soon as you get the good news. Don't wait more than a day to get this out, and prepare yourself to be interviewed.

    1. If the SG tables the vote or votes against endorsement, find out what happened and respond. Stay in the game. Talk to the SG members and find out who's with you and who's against you. Become involved with SG politics and work to get those who would support HEA reform elected.

    1. Contact us and let us know how it went. If the resolution passed, please send us a copy of the official SG meeting minutes. It is important for us to have the backup if we are ever asked to prove the endorsements. Additionally, the collection of the documentation from all the endorsing schools looks pretty impressive.

    Please send the meeting minutes-as well as any campus media coverage-to our mailing address at:

    Coalition for HEA Reform
    1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, Third Floor
    Washington, DC 20009

    You can also fax them to (202) 293-8344. We will then add your school's name to RaiseYourVoice.com and other materials. Good luck!


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