FAFSA’s foils

Sep 072006
Authors: Staff Editorial The University Star Texas State U.San Marcos

(U-WIRE) SAN MARCOS, Texas – If you’re charged with possession of any illegal substance and you’re a college student, kiss your financial aid goodbye. But if you’re convicted of an alcohol-related offense, you’re in the clear. Amid all the financial inquiries on the FAFSA application, why is there a question about drugs?

The fact that the federal government asks you about drug convictions rather than any other convictions is absurd.

As of 1998, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid has outlined that students who are convicted for possession or selling illegal drugs during the time they are enrolled and receiving federal student aid cannot qualify for the grants, loans and/or work-study.

Convictions that are removed from your record and convictions that occurred before you turned 18, unless you were tried as an adult, do not count. Those who check “yes” to illegal drug convictions on their FAFSA application are required to fill out a separate worksheet to determine if the conviction affects their financial aid eligibility.

The FAFSA question is a result of a provision of the Higher Education Act. Since 2000, more than 175,000 students have been ineligible for federal loans, grants and work-study because of the provision, according to the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Web site.

What’s absurd is that the federal government asks college students about drug convictions but not DUIs, DWIS or any other offenses. One particular misdemeanor conviction should not pull more weight than felony convictions.

Drunk drivers kill more innocent victims than pot smokers by far, but there’s no question about drunken driving on your FAFSA application. Why doesn’t the federal government also revoke the rights of murders or other violent criminals?

And if the law is an attempt to penalize drug users, it’s a paltry effort. It only punishes students convicted of drug-related charges who need financial assistance. Students who can afford their tuition, fees and other expenses on their own are unaffected. It’s unfair to target people who rely on federal aid.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union are asking for the federal government to repeal its decision. The organization is urging people to tell their state representative to bring reform to the High Education Act. On the “Take Action” portion of the organization’s Web site, there is a form that can be filled out and sent directly to your elected official. If you think this is unfair, voice your opinion.

Drug convictions shouldn’t mark the end of someone’s college career just because they can’t rely on financial assistance.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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