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Asa Hutchinson gets it half right

Former director of the DEA Asa Hutchinson is running for Governor of Arkansas. In this article, he starts off on the right track:

“Past drug offenses should not automatically disqualify someone for student aid,” Hutchinson, a candidate for governor, told the Arkansas Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The group met in a fall conference at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fayetteville.

Applicants for student loans are asked if they have used drugs in the past and, if so, are ineligible for loans, Hutchinson said. That’s a mistake, he said. […]

“It’s a mistake to put people right on the same track that lead to drug use in the first place by considering them unredeemable,” he said. “If you deny people access to jobs by denying them the education they need, they will have little recourse in their mind other than going back to drugs.”

Good for him. But I didn’t really expect him to get it, and sure enough…

“However, if someone commits a drug offense while receiving a student loan, he should lose it,” Hutchinson continued. “Chances are that if he has a drug problem while going to school, he will drop out and not repay the loan.”

Notice the conflation of “drug offense” with “drug problem.” And the statement completely ignores the reality of how financial aid works. If a student’s grades fall, he or she will lose their financial aid — no need for this provision. The whole point of denying financial aid for a drug conviction is to punish the good student. That’s right. They’re after the low income students who get good grades despite using pot, but had the bad luck to get caught.
I have worked with thousands of students. Each one is different. Some can’t handle the stress, or the alcohol, or the freedom to watch soap operas all day. Some succeed despite the problems of the world being thrown at them. I have seen straight-A students who were leaders in student organizations and graduated with stacks of awards and honors despite smoking pot every single day they were in college.
Asa gets the big picture wrong. The HEA financial provision should be repealed in its entirety.

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