Via DARE Generation Blog, comes a piece at Slate by Ryan Grim: A lie college students might want to tell.
It’s about the provision of the Higher Education Act that denies financial aid to those with drug convictions. A bad law (written and promoted by Mark Souder of Indiana) that also makes no sense. It serves no useful purpose whatsoever. It has nothing to do with whether the student is doing well in school-work — financial aid already has provisions for keeping your grades up. And it has nothing to do with being a law-abiding citizen — people aren’t denied aid for rape, assault, burglary, traffic violations, tax fraud, or drunk driving. It’s about additionally punishing drug users — and not just any drug users, but those who really want to make something of their lives by going to college.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy have been fighting this provision for years, and made significant progress recently with a change to reduce the negative impact, but they’re still working on getting rid of it entirely. They also had to fight the Department of Education to get actual statistics, but they got them, and frankly, the statistics floored me.
189,065 students were denied financial aid because of drug convictions.
I work at a university with 20,000 students and I see all the hope and promise of young people learning about themselves and their future. We’re talking about taking the equivalent of 10 universities this size and dashing the hopes and promise of those students.
There were a couple of other interesting points in the Slate article. First, it appears that Souder’s constituents reaped what he sowed…
If this law betters the lives of young people–Souder calls it a way to reduce youth drug use by reducing demand–then no state has done better than Souder’s own Indiana. As of August 2005, nearly 9,000 Indiana students–one in 200–have been denied aid since the law passed. That’s the highest proportion of students affected in any state by a wide margin.
(Of course, Souder just makes up the notion that the law reduces demand.)
Second, it appears the law mostly penalizes people for telling the truth.
There’s another funny thing about the Department of Education’s numbers: They don’t show the number of college applicants punished for drug convictions. They show the number punished for owning up to drug convictions. On their financial-aid applications, students are asked to check a box if they’ve been convicted of selling or possessing drugs. But the department has no way to verify students’ answers. Officials can cross-check the answers with federal arrest records, but they make up a very small percentage of all drug convictions.
So far, about 190,000 students across the country (and abroad) have told the truth and been denied financial aid. It’s impossible to know how many lied and headed off to college, federal aid in hand.