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No Financial Aid For Drug Violators


420 Staff
Federal drug policies are hindering students' chances of receiving financial aid, which is raising questions from state legislators and students as to why these policies still exist.

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, 829,625 people were arrested for marijuana violations in 2006. Out of those people, 89 percent were charged with marijuana possession only. Meanwhile, NORML.org says 18-24 year-olds comprised about 40 percent of all drug arrests in 2002.

The majority of people who are convicted of a marijuana violation are charged with one of the lesser offenses, and a large percentage of those convicted fall into the college age group.

One of the processes of obtaining financial aid from the government is to complete the FAFSA form, which is required from every student. In recent years, the integrity of this form has been questioned, due to its "vague biased-ness," said University of Massachusetts Financial Aid Services Director Kenneth Burnham.

For example, question 31 asks, "Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid?" As a result of this question, an estimated 175,000 students convicted of certain drug offenses are denied federal financial aid for college each year.

State House Representative for Massachusetts Barney Frank has become outspoken on the opposition of the FAFSA.

"The law is unfair and discriminatory, because it only causes difficulties for lower income students," Frank said. "While I don't condone illegal drug use, I disagree with the idea of using the federal financial aid system to punish people who have been convicted of relatively minor drug convictions."

The opposition felt by Frank is shared with Burnham.

"Anything that gets in the way of students obtaining the aid they need, we do not promote or support it," Burnham said. "All that the University can do is just abide by the regulations set by the federal government."

When asked if there were strong possibilities for a change in the FAFSA, Burnham replied "It appears now that question thirty-one will stand, unless there is a change in administration."

Not only are political figures and highly positioned people finding flaws with the current FAFSA, students are also banning together in the hopes of making some changes. Groups such as Students for a Sensible Drug Policy are making worthy attempts to amend the radical policies.

For being a student ran organization, SSDP has reached significant goals with their amount of knowledge and their nationwide support. They have managed to mobilize student activists to reform campuses and local and state drug policies.

Recently, SSDP budged Congress to scale back the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty, which prevents students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid. The lobby helped make it possible for students who are convicted of a marijuana violation while taking time off from college to still receive financial aid.

Chapters affiliated with SSDP are growing across the nation. SSDP is constantly campaigning. It encourages individual or group support everywhere. Currently, there is no SSDP chapter at UMass.

Source: Massachusetts Daily Collegian (U of MA, Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Daily Collegian
Contact: http://www.dailycollegian.com/home/lettertotheeditor/
Website: The Daily Collegian


New Member
those students should file for 14th amendment protection
so that students with alcohol violations also lose financial aid
that would surely raise a stink and possibly work better since
alcohol sales to college age folks is really big business and
all that beer money talks but due process is being denied to drunks using a much more toxic inebriant than pot
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