Financial Aid for Drug Offenders

Eleven years ago, congress enacted the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, a law that denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. Since that time, over 200,000 students have lost their aid. California Congressman George Miller (D) has recently introduced a bill that would repeal the penalty. It is expected to pass the House.

The Aid Elimination Penalty was created to deter students from using drugs but evidence shows that it hasn't worked.

A September 2005 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was unable to find any evidence that the provision “actually helped to deter drug use.” The report found that college graduates “earn nearly twice as much over a lifetime as those persons who have only a high school diploma.” The study cited a “strong consensus among economists that formal education has a positive impact not only on personal income but also on society.” The GAO further noted that college education leads to “decreases in crime” and “decreased dependence upon certain types of public assistance.”

Currently, more than 400 organizations and 115 student governments have joined the CHEAR coalition in support of the law's full repeal. The law has received criticism because of it's impact on minorities and those of lower income who make up a disproportionate number of drug offenders. Other groups have also pointed out that those who complete college are less likely to develop drug problems and more likely to have jobs.