Injustice 101: Government "Higher Education Act" Denies Financial Aid to Students with Drug Convictions
Taking away financial aid for students with drug convictions is unfair, but that's the goal of a recent federal law.
Since July 1, 2000, the Department of Education has denied financial aid to thousands of students who reported having been convicted of one or more drug-related offenses. This new, mandatory bar to financial aid -- including loans and work-study programs -- was enacted in 1998 as part of a series of amendments to the Higher Education Act (HEA).
The American Civil Liberties Union believes this law is wrong. Drug violations already carry severe legal penalties, with mandatory minimum sentences. Judges have long had the option of suspending eligibility for aid on a case-by-case basis, but suspension of aid is now mandatory and applies across the board.
"This law is discriminatory," said Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project, which is asking students to contact them if they have been denied aid under the new law. "If a student is convicted of a drug offense, and her family can afford to pay for college, she will be unaffected by the legislation, while those who are already in danger of being pushed to society's margins will not be able to get federal aid to improve themselves."