No Loans for Stoners 

  No Loans for Stoners 

Posted by FoM on June 25, 2000 at 21:56:33 PT
By Kristen Hamilton 
Source: Shewire 

If you rely on financial aid, you might think twice before stashing drugs.If you head out of your dorm with ecstasy in your backpack or attend class with reefer in the back pocket of your Levi's, you could lose more than your clean criminal record if you're busted.You also could lose your money for college. 
Starting next week, college students caught and convicted of using or selling illegal drugs could be stripped of their federal financial aid. Under a provision in the Higher Education Act of 1998, which takes effect July 1, a student's aid will be taken away if she is convicted of drug possession or a drug sale. The penalties become stiffer with each offense. For example, if she is convicted of drug possession for the first time, her aid will be delayed for a year. Her second conviction will result in a two-year delay. If a student is convicted of selling drugs for the first time, her aid will be held for two years. Any convictions after that, and she will be ineligible for aid—period.Backers of the new law say it will cut drug use on college campuses. But the statute is drawing fire from students, legislators and even the Department of Education. Groups like the Drug Reform Coordination Network, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and civil rights groups say that the law is too harsh, discriminates based on race and class, and will do nothing to decrease drug use among college students. "By definition it discriminates against the poor, because wealthier kids don't need Pell grants," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), an opponent of the bill. "And in fact we know that drug convictions against minorities are higher [in general]."A recent report from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund backs up that claim. Although African Americans and whites have approximately the same rate of drug use, African Americans constitute more than a third of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses, according to the findings of the group's study of race-based inequalities in America.Plus, a recent survey done by The Chronicle of Higher Education shows an increase of 11.1 percent in violations of drug laws by college students in 1998, and a 24.3 percent jump in alcohol related arrests that same year. It marks the seventh consecutive year these arrest rates have gone up. Health officials site rising drug and alcohol use as the cause of the increase, while campus police officials maintain that tougher enforcement of current laws is what has caused the statistics to change.These inflated arrest rates will make it impossible for many students to earn a college degree, opponents said. They also said that the bill will put a financial burden on the student, and additional strain on the nation's already full and flailing rehabilitation programs.Proponents of the law point out that any student who is convicted can have their financial aid reinstated if they go through a rehabilitation program and pass two unannounced drug tests."Not every drug offender is in need of treatment," said David Borden, executive director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which is just one of the activist groups working to repeal the law. "Certainly some are, but by forcing all offenders into treatment program, its going to crowd out people who really do need help," he said. "There is no reason that a group of politicians in Washington should make this blanket prohibition." Instead, he says the power to make such decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis by the courts.Meanwhile, Rep. Frank is pushing a bill that would repeal the provision all together. He said that the law is bad for two reasons. Not only is it unduly harsh, he said, but it's also a bad idea to single out drug use for punishment because other offenses such as under-age drinking, arson, perjury and theft go unpunished under the law. "This is part of the American obsession for over-punishing drug users," he said. But the bill's sponsors say the practice of college drug use has become too accepted."There is a cultural attitude that winks at drug use in college...there was seen to be a need to reinforce that drug use is illegal and can impede your learning," said Angela Flood, a spokeswoman for Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind) who supports the bill. In response to criticism that the bill unfairly targets minority students Flood said, "I find that to be a complete leap. It is not fair to apply a statistic about the general population to those who apply for financial aid." Opposition groups, however, are claiming a small victory in an amendment made last week by Congress. The provision states that only those students convicted while receiving aid will be affected. As it is currently written, convictions before the student was receiving aid could have made them ineligible for aid. But the bad news, Borden said, is that the new language closes an old loophole which allowed students to receive aid and leave blank the answer to a question on the federal financial aid application (FASFA), that asks if you have ever been convicted of a drug offense. The new language makes answering the question mandatory. Students that leave the question blank will not be eligible to receive aid. Congressman Frank and civil rights groups will continue to fight it the law. Frank said he recently got a letter from a man working as a prosecutor who said that if this law had been in effect while he was in college, he would not be where he is now. And some other folks might not, either.For example, had presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore—both of whom admitted sampling drugs in college—been receiving financial aid at the time, and, they may never have graduated if this law had been on the books."Al Gore and George W. Bush appear to have violated drug laws," Frank said, "But neither of them got caught."Kristen Hamilton is a member of the ChickClick edit staff.E-mail: writers shewire.comPublished: June 21, 2000(C) 1999-2000, Inc. Related Articles & Web Site:Students For Sensible Drug Policy Seeking Aid Not Answering Drug Question With Drug Convictions Will Soon Be Denied Loans for Student Drug Offenders

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Comment #2 posted by legalizeit on June 26, 2000 at 06:22:57 PT
the bottom line ... THEY DON'T CARE!
It doesn't matter what studies come out from anyone regarding sickening anti-drug legislation - the Drug Warriors don't care! Any backing down on their part and they become "soft on drugs." They don't care how many lives they ruin or keep ruined by the endless cycle of prison, drugs and crime caused by their hard-nosed laws.Not only do they not admit their crap ain't workin', they come out with more and more sweeping and unabashed attacks on the Constitution and create more laws steeped in racism.I just wish there were more Barney Franks and less Mark Souders, Bob Barrs, Dianne Feinsteins and Orrin Hatches in our legislature.Many drug addicts (as usual, the term addicts refers to responsible MJ smokers as well) would like a better life by going to college. Now, another door is closing in their face.The gov. HAS to keep a certain number of people addicted, destitute and/or jailed, so they can bust traffickers and casual (minority) users, so we can see Barry's big ugly mug on the news talking about the latest big bust, how the baddies are all in jail, and we have all but won the drug war.>an increase of 11.1 percent in violations of drug laws bycollege students in 1998Looks like D.A.R.E. and "Just say No" are working REAL well!>there was seen to be a need to reinforce that drug use is illegal and can impede your learning," said Angela FloodYeah, like not receiving your college grant won't impede your learning. How far up where the moon don't shine is this lady's head anyway?Of course, the most highly abused drug in colleges, alcohol, comes through unscathed. A student can waste all his/her money buying booze, and spend study halls puking up the aftermath of his/her partying, and not lose any grant money at all. What a country to live in.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 25, 2000 at 22:57:30 PT

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