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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Drug convictions cause students to lose financial aid

    Students convicted of any drug-related crime while receiving federal financial aid lose their aid for the rest of the semester and are ineligible for aid the next time the student applies for it, according to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid Web site.

    The rule has UA students on opposite sides of the fence.

    Finance senior Stephan Schickling favors the policy. He said students should only take legally prescribed drugs, and that consumption of any illegal substances should be grounds for invalidating federal aid.

    “”If there is a law, they should go ahead and follow it,”” Schickling said.

    Undeclared freshman Charlie Harris, meanwhile, thinks financial aid should be strictly need- and merit-based, not regulated based on students’ social activities.

    “”If drugs aren’t interfering with your performance in school, I don’t think they should take away your financial aid,”” he said.

    Angel Peralta, a pre-business freshman, currently receives federal aid.

    “”I don’t know how they make the correlation between the financial aid and the drug charge,”” he said.

    Nearly 200,000 students have been denied financial aid since the law making drug offenders ineligible for it was enacted in 2000, according to a report from Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

    At the UA, no records are kept on the number of students denied federal aid based on drug convictions, said John Nametz, director of UA student financial aid.

    “”I don’t know of any students that have been deterred at the university,”” he said. “”A lot of students who may be deterred under this really aren’t.””

    Nametz suggested that students who think they’re ineligible fill out the FAFSA application form, anyway. Whatever the outcome, he said, there is no policy at the UA that bars students with drug convictions from receiving aid through the university or the state.

    “”Don’t self-eliminate,”” he said. “”You have to go through the worksheet.””

    For a first-time possession charge, students lose their federal aid for one year, said Tom Angell, government relations director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

    If a student is convicted of selling a controlled substance, the first offense would result in a two-year loss of aid, and a second offense would lead to the student losing aid indefinitely, Angell said.

    If a student gets a drug conviction in the middle of a semester, he or she is supposed to report it to the U.S. Department of Education, he said. They are also supposed to immediately relinquish all money received from federal financial aid.

    Students who are disqualified from receiving federal aid may complete a drug rehabilitation program to become eligible again, according to the FAFSA Web site.

    “”An acceptable drug rehabilitation program must include two unannounced drug tests,”” according to the Web site. The program must also be qualified to receive money from the government or be administered by a government agency or a state-licensed health facility.

    “”The problem with that is that these private drug treatment programs are incredibly expensive,”” Angell said. “”Many of the students who can’t afford tuition can’t afford those.””

    “”Sixty-three percent of students rely on financial aid,”” he addded. “”Most students are forced to drop out immediately.””

    SSDP has been trying to overturn the federal law since its enactment, Angell said.

    “”Our opposition to the policy stems from the fact that we recognize that it causes more, not less drug abuse,”” he said. “”Blocking access to education makes our nation’s drug problems worse.””

    The law also hurts the country’s economy by lowering the number of college graduates each year, he said.

    “”People who don’t have college degrees are more likely to depend on federal assistance or become incarcerated,”” he said.

    “”This aid elimination penalty is directed at students and young people,”” Angell said. “”It’s our generation that must tell Congress to repeal the penalty.””

    Schickling agreed that if enough students disagree with the law, they should group together and work to get it repealed.

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