New legislation might no longer deny federal education aid from student drug offenders. Congress has rewritten the Higher Education Act Drug Provision, which states that if a student has a previous or current drug conviction, they will not receive financial aid. But the revision will allow students with a previous drug offense to receive aid, although students who are convicted while in college will lose eligibility.
Larry Moeder, director of admissions and student financial assistance, said prior to the new legislation, students would have to indicate whether they had a drug offense or not. Then a follow-up would be done by the U.S. Department of Education.
The school was never given the information and he said there is no way of knowing how many students at Kansas State University have been affected. He said students convicted while in school and who are receiving aid are the two things that need to go together.
“I think this is a good idea because prior to the legislation there were so many students that were prevented from getting an education because of something they did years ago,” he said. “This makes it more possible for students to get a college education.”
He said the new bill might not take affect until July 1, 2007, and there will be some time before the Department of Education gives schools guidance on how to approach the new legislation.
He said 70 percent of students receive some sort of financial assistance at K-State, which adds up to about $150 million a year.
Tom Angell, campaigns director for the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, said the SSDP is happy more students are going to be able to get aid, but hopes that other students will not continue to be left behind.
“I think this will help a small number of people,” he said. “Juvenile convictions aren’t taken into account, and there are a majority of people who are affected and get convicted while in college.”
He said pulling people out of school who are convicted will only make the situation worse. He said it will harm the student further because they are denied an education, and it reduces the chance of them ever getting the education.
“The previous provision hurts the individual and the society as a whole by reducing economic productivity and increasing crime,” he said.
He said the SSDP is urging the department of education to enact the new provision as soon as possible because students with past convictions would be able to move on with their lives.
“This only hurts the good students,” he said. “You have to keep a certain grade point average to keep aid anyway, so the student that sells drugs and never goes to class or studies won’t have it anyway. This allows the hard-working, determined students to get the education they deserve.”
Sondra Turnquist, a junior studying elementary education, said students with a past offense should be given a second chance. She said the new law would be a reason for students to stop using drugs while in school.
She said she doesn’t know if K-State has a high population of people who use drugs, but she said she was sure it will affect the university in some manner.
“As for whether or not summer semester counts, even though you aren’t enrolled, you are still a student,” she said. “You don’t quit being a student once you go home; you will be one until you graduate.”
This legislation goes against the new program called SIPS that West Chester has recently organized. It aims to more directly target those who supply alcohol to minors and in addition underage drinkers. This organization’s goal os to decrease alcohol related offenses on and off campus.