Students Seeking Aid Not Answering Drug Question 

Students Seeking Aid Not Answering Drug Question 
Posted by FoM on March 21, 2000 at 06:34:42 PT
By John Kelly, Associated Press
The U.S. Department of Education has told colleges not to hold up the financial aid applications of more than 200,000 students who left blank a question asking if they have been convicted of a drug crime. Thirteen percent of applicants didn't answer Question 28 on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year, which was added to enforce a law designed to prevent drug convicts from getting federal grants and loans to pay for college. 
What to do with students who don't answer the drug question, or students who lie, has troubled federal and college officials since the law was passed in 1998. The coming fall semester is the first time students convicted of possessing or selling drugs can lose federal financial aid. The bans range from a year to forever, depending on the number of convictions, type of crime and whether they've completed a rehabilitation program. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., who pushed for the drug rules when Congress updated the Higher Education Act in 1998, is not satisfied with how the law is being enforced and met with Education Department officials last week to discuss his concerns, spokeswoman Angela Flood said. ''Obviously, he wants to see this law enforced,'' Flood said. Of the 1.7 million students who had completed the application as of March 5, Education Department spokeswoman Karen Freeman said 213,633 left a blank box next to the following: ''If you have never been convicted of any illegal drug offense, enter '1' in the box.'' Less than 1 percent of applicants admitted a drug conviction, Freeman said. Another 8 million or so applications are yet to be filed, officials estimate. In addition to telling schools not to hold up the applications, the Education Department said it would not be double-checking the honesty of the students who did answer. The department insists not all students who left the box blank have convictions, and internal surveys found many were just confused by the question, Freeman said. ''We don't think they've left it blank because they've got anything to hide,'' said Orlo Austin, the director of financial aid at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Austin and other college financial aid officers said the drug question doesn't belong on the application. They say the law is impossible to enforce because there is no national database of drug offenders. Student rights groups call the law discriminatory and unfair. For example, some say the law only affects poor students because wealthier students with drug convictions can still afford to pay for college. Kris Lotlikar, the national director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy in Washington, said it is ridiculous to ban people with drug convictions but not murderers or rapists. Some in Congress agree. ''Why single that one crime out?'' asked U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who admits there is little chance to reverse the law. On the Net: Students for Sensible Drug Policy: Education Department: Champaign, Ill. (AP)  Copyright 2000 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing, Inc. CannabisNews Articles On SSDP, Students & Financial Aid:
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Comment #1 posted by Barry Smith on March 23, 2000 at 08:10:51 PT
Kicking 'em When They're Down?
Great - a set of highly oppressive laws to convict people of serious crimes for what should be minor possession offences and then once someone has a criminal record and is finding it difficult to support themselves in a legal manner make more difficult for them to attend college and so force them further down the path of turning to serious crime to support themselves. 
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