Congress Misuses College Aid in its Drug War

Congress Misuses College Aid in its Drug War
Posted by FoM on March 25, 2000 at 20:11:22 PT
Bee Editorial: Question 28
Source: Sacramento Bee
When the 10 million American college students who annually seek federal tuition aid or loans filled out this year's application, they came across a brand-new question that apparently stumped -- or perhaps scared -- a good number of them: "If you have never been convicted of any illegal drug offense, enter '1' in the box and go to question 29. 
A drug-related conviction does not necessarily make you ineligible for aid; call 1-800-433-3243 or go to: to find out how to fill out this question."Of the hundreds of thousands of applications already processed this year by the federal Education Department, 20 percent of applicants left the drug question blank."Question 28" was added to the eight-page application at the behest of Congress, which in 1998 quietly determined to withhold college aid, beginning in the next school year, to students who have recently been convicted in state or federal court of possessing or selling illegal drugs. Federal college aid amounts to $52 billion annually and comes mostly in the form of loans. Under the new rule, students can lose aid eligibility for one year for a first conviction of drug possession, be it a felony or misdemeanor; two years for a second conviction and indefinitely for a third conviction. The aid penalties for drug-selling convictions are stiffer.To lawmakers concerned about youth drug use, withholding college aid seemed like a useful hammer. But college aid administrators worry, rightfully, that question 28 could have the effect of shutting down higher education and vocational opportunities for the very students -- poor, at risk of choosing less constructive futures for themselves -- who most need it. Why should a single cocaine or marijuana conviction narrow college doors for poor students, when it has no such consequence for their more affluent peers? Education Department officials don't believe the students who left the question blank all have something to hide, rather that many were confused by the wording or inadvertently forgot to answer. The department's attempt to determine students' answers to question 28 have found fewer then 1 percent of applicants owning up to past drug convictions, a rate that roughly matches the average for the U.S. population as a whole.The proponent of the drug question, Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana, is now calling for federal audits to make sure the question is answered truthfully. But it would be far better not to ask it at all. If poor students have been convicted of drug crimes, their punishment should come through the justice system, not the college loan office. Published March 25, 2000Copyright  The Sacramento BeeRelated Articles:Students Seeking Aid Not Answering Drug Question Bust = No Student Loans
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Comment #6 posted by JBC420 on June 07, 2000 at 14:00:00 PT
It's a sad world when one mistake can ruin your whole future. I don't understand the governments obsession with marijuana. Scientific studies have shown that marijuana does not have many of the horrible properties that they claim. 
You Might Be A Pothead If........(comedy)
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Comment #5 posted by Dankhank on March 26, 2000 at 19:44:29 PT:
yes ...
Murderers, rapists, robbers, burglers, DUIs, and practically ANY other crime does NOT affect eligability for the scholarships and loans. Only a drug conviction.Livin' in America ...
Hemp n Stuff
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Comment #4 posted by dddd on March 26, 2000 at 15:00:23 PT
 "Double jeapordy","fascism"?..these terms put it mildly! Does anyone know if I am correct in assuming that murderers,rapists,and other people who have felony convictions are eligible for this financial aid?...dddd
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on March 26, 2000 at 07:29:32 PT:
Leave it blank!!!!
The number of people who are *refusing* to incriminate themselves is now at one-fifth of all applicants. The authorities involved in processing the applications know that they cannot hold up the processing because of time constraints. They haven't the resources to track down each and every person to verify if 'they did or they didn't'. So despite the bluster of dinosaurs like Souder, any attempt to hold things up will be met with the kind of political firestorm that *neither* party can afford in an *election year*. After all, it's little Johnnie and Suzy's future at stake, and although Mommy and Daddy (in their sheep-like trust) might be 110% behind the DrugWar, when it comes to their kid's futures, do you honestly think they'll let some Congressperson off the hook for demanding compliance? 
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Comment #2 posted by fivepounder on March 26, 2000 at 07:00:41 PT
college aid
Seems more like fascism to me.
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Comment #1 posted by Santor on March 26, 2000 at 00:19:44 PT
double jeopardy?
This seems like a clear case of double jeopardy to me. Anyone else?
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