Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Congress Re-Evaluating Law That Denies Aid to Students Convicted of Drug Crimes

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Congress Re-Evaluating Law That Denies Aid to Students Convicted of Drug Crimes

Article excerpt

MINNEAPOLIS

Congress is re-evaluating a five-year old law that denies financial aid to college students with drug convictions.

Tens of thousands of students are denied federal grants and loans every year because of drug-crime convictions. In September, the House will vote on a bill that could change that.

The bill would allow students convicted of drug crimes committed before they started college to be eligible for federal aid. Students convicted during college, however, are out of luck.

"There needs to be some incentive to keep you from getting on drugs," says Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., a member of the House Education Committee that approved the plan last month. "The loss of your student aid is an appropriate tool."

Critics of the proposed change say the bill doesn't go far enough, arguing that the bill should get rid of the law entirely. And they charge the bill is discriminatory, because most people convicted on drug charges are minorities or from low-income families.

"The drug provision is about identifying a group of individuals and saying they are unworthy because they have made bad decisions in the past," said Lissa Jones, executive director of Minnesota-based African-American Family Services.

Chris Mulligan, campaign director of the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, estimated that 35,000 students lose their aid every year because of the provision. Officials say there is no way to track the law's effect because convicted students usually don't apply for aid. …

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