Higher Education Act Student Reform Effort 1/29/99

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Kris Lotlikar
The signing of the Higher Education Act of 1998 has spurred the beginning of a national student effort for reform. Across the country, over 70 campuses are already involved in raising awareness and opposition to the provision in the HEA that denies or delays federal financial aid to drug offenders. The student governments at three of those colleges have already endorsed a resolution calling for the 106th congress to overturn the provision.

"This provision will do nothing to address the real problems associated with drug abuse, but will instead needlessly expand the scope of our nation's Drug War into a war on students' access to higher education," said Chris Maj, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, the first college to obtain student government endorsement. "We are forming a coalition of groups within the RIT community who see a need for Higher Education Act reform. This coalition will then be approaching our college president and Congressional representatives."

"This law is discriminatory by nature, disproportionately affecting students of low or moderate income, since federal financial aid grants and work assistance are need-based programs," said Peder Nelson, student activist spearheading the effort that achieved in getting its student government endorsement at Western State college in Colorado. "We have also met with the president of our school and he's expressed support for our efforts. We are planning on sending out copies of our petition to our congressman and senators and beginning outreach to other Colorado campuses."

Western Connecticut State College students' association was the third to endorse the reform resolution. The effort was spearheaded by WCSU NORML, whose Dave Bonan is a member of the student senate. The resolution passed 19-2, with one abstention. (WCSU NORML is the sponsor of the annual Johnes Fest, taking place April 17 at the Charles Ives Center for the Arts in Danbury, featuring music and speakers.)

Student activists point to racial disparities in the enforcement of drug laws and a need for Higher Education Act reform. "African Americans comprise only 13% of drug users but make up about 55% of drug convictions, which will result in them being disproportionately affected by this law," comments Lauren Anderson, an officer of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

DRCNet is coordinating a Congressional lobbying campaign with the student effort, to get legislation introduced and passed that would remove the provision. Students will be taking an active role in the campaign by meeting with their representatives and building a broad base of support in their home districts.

To learn how to get involved in the national effort for HEA reform, call (202) 293-8340 or e-mail Kris Lotlikar at [email protected], or visit http://www.drcnet.org/U-net/ for further information. Also see our original story on the HEA at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/062.html#noloans.

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Issue #76, 1/29/99 Your Tax Dollars at Work: US Developing Fungi to Kill Narcotics Plants | Higher Education Act Student Reform Effort | Rep. Ron Paul to Introduce Financial Privacy Legislation to Block Intrusive "Know Your Customer" Banking Rules | Hemp for Victory | Israel to Set Standards for Medicinal Use of Marijuana | Life for Nonviolent Juveniles Proposed in Virginia | The Lindesmith Center Drug Policy Seminar Series, January through April | Conferences and Events | Harm Reduction Training Institute, Winter '99 Calendar | Report: Militarized Democracy in the Americas | Editorial: Strange Logic
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