Higher Education Organizations Ask Incoming DEA Chief Hutchinson to Review, Reject Higher Education Act Anti-Drug Provision 5/25/01

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The rapidly growing campaign to eliminate the anti-drug provision of the 1998 Higher Education Act (HEA) picked up new momentum this week as the nation's leading associations concerned with higher education joined the rising chorus of calls for its repeal. In a letter dated May 18th, the American Council on Education (http://www.acenet.edu) called on the administration to review the anti-drug provision of the HEA, under which students may be denied eligibility for federal financial aid for school if they admit to having a drug offense.

ACE represents more than 1,800 institutions of higher learning as well as serving as an umbrella coalition for the nation's leading higher education associations. The letter, which was addressed to DEA administrator nominee and US Congressman Asa Hutchinson, was endorsed by ACE, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the United Negro College Fund and the United States Student Association.

"We've been opposed to the anti-drug provision from the beginning," ACE director of public affairs Tim McDonough told DRCNet. "We are philosophically opposed to using federal student aid to dictate matters of social policy. The federal student aid form is designed to assess need, and we are opposed in principle to any questions that are not germane to the federal need formula," he added.

When asked why now, McDonough said, "When we see an opening, we jump on it. We saw a recent interview with Mr. Hutchinson where he indicated a willingness to think more about the issue, and we took the opportunity to respond."

Attacking what it called "a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation, both conceptually and operationally," ACE noted that member colleges and organizations "are concerned that this provision will prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to far too many students, causing many of them to abandon their hope of a college education." Sent out over the signature of ACE president Stanley Ikenberry, the letter listed some of the problems with the law that caused the association to call for its review. Its list includes:

  • The withholding of federal aid constitutes a double punishment on top of criminal sanctions.
  • The consequences of truthfully completing the aid form appear more onerous than falsely answering the drug question, tempting students to lie.
  • There are few rehabilitation programs accessible to students because treatment facilities are "oversubscribed" by people with serious drug abuse problems.
  • "Most importantly, this provision discriminates against the low- and middle-income recipients of federal student aid, since students whose families can bear the cost of higher education are not subject to any comparable screening mechanism."
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) is one of the groups involved in the effort to overturn the HEA anti-drug provision. "The higher education community is standing up against a law that just does not make sense, just like students and other concerned citizens," SSDP National Director Shawn Heller told DRCNet. "The higher education community has been supportive in the past, but we welcome their new, high-profile involvement."

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Issue #187, 5/25/01 Editorial: Reform Isn't Good Enough This Time | Higher Education Organizations Ask Incoming DEA Chief Hutchinson to Review, Reject Higher Education Act Anti-Drug Provision | Bill Introduced by Congresswoman Maxine Waters Would Eliminate Mandatory Minimums in Federal Drug Sentencing, Vaporize Crack-Cocaine Disparity | Missouri Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill, Legislature Urges Heightened Ecstasy Penalties | Oxycontin the New Drug Plague? Don't Believe the Hype | Study Finds Drug Education Programs Ineffective, Plagued By Politics, Author Suggests Involving Educators | Syringe Exchange Programs Grow in Scope, Effectiveness, Centers for Disease Control Find | UN Drug Agency Casts Evil Eye on Australian Safe Injection Room Again | British Columbia Marijuana Party Polls 3.50% in Provincial Elections, May Morph Into Multi-Issue "Freedom Party" | Drug Policies for the New Millenium: TLC-DPF Conference to Convene in Albuquerque Next Week | Action Alerts: Drug Czar Nomination, HEA Drug Provision, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | Do You Read the Week Online? | Media Scan: TomPaine.com, New Republic, World Net Daily | The Reformer's Calendar | Job Opportunity: NYC Harm Reduction
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