Drug policy prevents higher education

Students need to make their voice heard on the higher education drug provision.

With the recent study released by the Government Accountability Office showing that the higher education drug provision does not deter students from using drugs and the ongoing debate in Congress right now, it is important to revisit the issue.

The sole purpose of Higher Education Act was to strengthen the educational resources of colleges and universities and to increase access to higher education through financial assistance.

Seven years ago a provision was added to the Higher Education Act that delays or denies financial aid to anyone convicted of a state or federal drug offense. Since taking effect, more than 160,000 students have lost their financial aid eligibility due. This is in addition to whatever punishment they have received from state or federal courts. The student’s misdeed remains the only class of crime that has a ban on financial aid eligibility. This means the provision doesn’t deal with someone who has been charged with drunken driving, rape or murder. The provision was supposed to keep students off drugs through the threat of lost financial aid assistance, however, it impossible to check the efficacy of this claim since many students who are convicted of drug offenses don’t bother applying for financial aid.

Invariably, the drug provision in the Higher Education Act hurts those it was intended to help: middle and low-income families. These are the people who have to worry about paying for their education, but all too often face barriers like the drug provision that keep higher education out of their reach. This is to say nothing of the minorities who are vastly overrepresented in drug convictions in the United States.

With more than 70 million U.S. citizens who have smoked marijuana at least once in their life, it is essential that University students call the provision what it really is: politics over people. Right now Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., along with 50 other co-sponsors are authoring a bill that would repeal the drug provision. Students should let them know that they support this action.