The Higher Education Act
(HEA) Drug Provision -- a misguided law written by arch-drug warrior Rep.
Mark Souder (R-IN) -- has since taking effect in fall 2000 taken financial
aid for college away from more than 160,500 would-be students because of
drug convictions. Next week (March 9), Rep. Barney Frank will reintroduce
legislation -- now titled the RISE Act, Removing Impediments to Students'
Education -- to repeal the law, and the next day the Coalition for Higher
Education Act Reform will hold a press conference at the Capitol to support
it. Though the RISE Act last session garnered 70 cosponsors, a companion
to it has yet to be introduced in the Senate.
here to contact your two US Senators and ask them to sponsor a companion
bill to repeal the drug provision. Our web site includes a sample
letter that you can use but are also encouraged to edit, and it will send
your letter to your two US Senators by e-mail or fax. Also please
call your Senators directly -- you can use the Congressional Switchboard
at (202) 224-3121 or get their numbers from the Senate
web site -- and urge them to sponsor legislation in the Senate to repeal
the HEA Drug Provision.
BACKGROUND: Added in 1998
as an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA), the "drug provision"
(section 484(r), or 20 USC 1091(r)) excludes students with drug convictions
from receiving federal financial aid to attend institutions of higher learning.
The provision has had the effect of disqualifying a large number of deserving,
low- to middle-income students from receiving federal aid to attend college
for what are often relatively minor drug offenses, including misdemeanor
possession of marijuana.
SOME TALKING POINTS: The
HEA drug provision is troubling for numerous reasons:
For more information on the
HEA Drug Provision and how to become active in the campaign to repeal it,
please see http://www.raiseyourvoice.com
online. For further suggestions on talking points or strategy, please
contact Chris Mulligan by e-mail at [email protected],
or by phone at (202) 293-8340.
It is economically discriminatory,
only affects the children of low- and middle-income families who rely on
student loans, federal work-study programs, Pell Grants, and other forms
of aid to help finance their educations. These are the very students
and families whom the HEA set out to assist by expanding their educational
It is inappropriate to punish
people twice for the same offense.
Judges already have the discretion
to deny federal benefits to those convicted in their courts. Likewise,
school administrators have the discretion to discipline and/or expel students
who violate university policies. We should let those who are directly
in touch with the individual cases make such judgment calls -- not have
one blanket policy decided in Washington, DC, for everybody.
Studies have shown that those
convicted of crimes are far less likely to be re-arrested after having
received two years of postsecondary education and that students who leave
school after their first year have a dramatically reduced return rate.
P.S. If you're in the DC
area, please attend our fundraiser for the John W. Perry Fund, our scholarship
program helping students who've lost financial aid because of the drug
provision, the evening of Wednesday, March 9 -- click
here for details!
P.P.S. If you live in Arizona,
please click here to write your
state legislators in support of a resolution now being considered to put
the state on record calling on Congress to repeal the drug provision!
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