Financial Aid: House Committee Lightens Up on Students with Drug Possession Convictions

For a decade, a law authored by Indiana Republican Rep. Mark Souder has been an obstacle to higher education for people with drug records. The Higher Education Act (HEA) anti-drug provision, known more recently as the "Aid Elimination Penalty," barred students with drug offenses from receiving financial aid for specified periods of time.

Under pressure from students, educators, and others in a growing coalition to repeal the provision, Souder himself supported a partial reform in 2006 that restricted the provision's reach to those convicted of drug offenses while in school, and further changes in 2008 to help motivated students regain their eligibility early. Still, pressure to repeal it completely remained.

Now, with Democrats firmly in control of the Congress, the provision is once again undergoing scrutiny. On Tuesday, the House Education and Labor Committee voted to further shrink the provision's impact by limiting it only to students who are convicted of selling drugs, not those convicted simply of drug possession.

The vote came as part of broader legislation reforming the student loan system. That legislation must still pass the House and the Senate before the reform takes place. The committee turned back an amendment by Souder to strip the language reforming the drug provision by a vote of 20-27.

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Welcome to the 21st century

As a citisen of a slightly more enlightened country(although it's been a trial since Harper took over)it's a relief to see our American brethren finally putting enough pressure on your government to get some better,although still draconian legislation happening.As a person involved in reform for 40 years I know how hard it is to move politicians in a sane direction on this issue.There will be efforts to drag the pendulum back so never take your eyes off the prize and remember,until we get legalization,it's just a signpost on a long trail.

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