Third Party & Independents Archives

Speak Up Against HEA Now!

This piece is about the provision in the 1998 Higher Education Act which “delays or denies federal financial aid to people convicted of state or federal drug offenses” (1). Unfortunately however the drug provision is one of the least known discriminatory laws in our nation.

I remember going through undergraduate at the University of Dayton worrying about HEA. If I was too be caught with marijuana than I could lose my federal financial aid, which I truly needed. Worse I remember a friend named Josh who lived on the ground floor of Founders Hall at UD, the dorm I lived in my freshman year. Josh was like me, a freshman at the University of Dayton and someone who at that time smoked marijuana. Unfortunately Josh was arrested for a minor marijuana infraction and months later lost his federal financial aid, which forced him to drop out of UD.

It is sad that Josh's case is not unique. Since 2000, more than 180 thousand students have been denied aid because of the HEA provision (2). The HEA drug provision is one of a kind, as there is no such provision for those who committ other crimes such as rape or murder.

If you visit either the Green Party or the Libertarian Party's website and look at their party platform's you will not see one word on HEA from either (3,4).

The purpose of the criminal justice system is supposed to be one where those convicted can serve their time and learn their lesson. However those convicted of drug crimes are further penalized as when they are released they are denied an education because of the HEA drug provision.

Let's meet a few victims of HEA:

While attending Fullerton College in Anaheim Kandice Hawkes was arrested for marijuana possession. Hawkes than lost her federal financial aid, but remember a rapist or murderer would not have. Fortunately Kandice recieved a scholarship committed to granting scholarships to students affected by the Drug Provision, without it she would have had no chance to continue her education. (5)

Marisa Garcia from Santa Fe Springs, California was convicted of drug paraphenilia prior to attending college. When applying for financial aid for California State University-Fullerton she found out she was now denied financial aid, now remember again that someone who was convicted of murder or rape could have got that aid. Without the aid Marisa was barely able to attend college, however through hard work and help from her mother she made it (6).

This person's story has to be directly quoted because it is so strong: "Donald Miller, Queens, NY – At 53 years old, Miller is a very atypical college student. Miller began showing signs of mental illness in his early teens. When his mother passed away when he was only 22, Miller went off his medications and drifted into decades of homelessness and addiction. After several convictions for crack-cocaine and a stint at Riker’s Island, he began tackling his addiction problems. Donald enrolled himself in several treatment programs and stopped using all drugs in 1998. Seeking to better himself through higher education, Miller soon encountered the HEA Drug Provision. Though Miller had self-enrolled in a successful drug treatment program, unbeknownst to him, it did not qualify under the treatment exemption of the Drug Provision and after completion he was still ineligible for federal financial aid. Thanks to a $2,000 grant from The John W. Perry Fund Miller was able to enroll in his first semester at York College where he is currently seeking a degree in environmental health science" (7).

These stories are not atypical but instead commonplace. However, unfortunately not one single major political party has ever made a stance against this ridiculous provision in HEA in their party platform.

I propose that the Green Party step up on HEA. Please email me at richard@gp.org and than when enough emails are collected they will be forwarded. Please understand that just because HEA is not well known does not mean that it is not important.

1. http://www.raiseyourvoice.com/
2. Ibid.
3. http://www.lp.org/issues/platform_all.shtml
4. http://gp.org/platform/2004/
5. http://www.raiseyourvoice.com/victims.shtml
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.

Posted by Richard Rhodes at May 26, 2006 2:13 AM
Comments
Comment #151484

Note: I am currently a Legislative Analyst at NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and used to intern at NORML at which time my supervisor was Kris Krane. Kris Krane is currently the Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the premiere anti-HEA drug provision organization. Expect an interview with Kris to come up on Watchblog in the coming weeks or months.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 26, 2006 2:57 AM
Comment #151486

Let me get this straight…

You want my tax dollars to fund drugdealers and hippies going through college? Are you serious? Why can’t these freeloaders pay their own way like the rest of us? Did they spend it all on coke and weed?

If the education of these people are so important, let the States deal with it. Don’t let the responsible States in the South pay for another California Initiative. We had enough of that with the Spanish Language Courses!!!! Let California and New York pay for their druggie children. Leave us out.

I, for one, am happy our Great President Bush and the Republican Majority has seen fit to cut this ridiculous program. No doubt another Clinton disaster, this program is just another example why Democrats don’t deserve any positions in government.

Let us hope the November Elections will allow the GOP to continue this trend. There are many more social programs to cut and even more military contracts to award!!!

God wants us to win!!!

Posted by: Aldous at May 26, 2006 3:42 AM
Comment #151488

I think Aldous is being sarcastic yet I shall respond.

“Let me get this straight…You want my tax dollars to fund drugdealers and hippies going through college? Are you serious? Why can’t these freeloaders pay their own way like the rest of us? Did they spend it all on coke and weed?”

Remember rapists and murderers can still get federal financial aid. So seems like Aldous would rather have murderers and rapists getting federal financial aid than “hippies and drugdealers.”

And Aldous states: “I, for one, am happy our Great President Bush and the Republican Majority has seen fit to cut this ridiculous program. No doubt another Clinton disaster, this program is just another example why Democrats don’t deserve any positions in government.”

No, no, no your wrong again. If you note this was signed into legislation in 1998. Therefore Clinton and the Democrats began it, so you cannot just say this is because of one party’s influence.

The Green Party (www.gp.org) is a great party. Let’s add HEA to our resume.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 26, 2006 3:56 AM
Comment #151491

I do not want ANY Criminals getting Federal Financial Aid. As I see it, this is just the beginning of the complete and total removal of ALL Financial Aid for Students.

Good Riddence!!!

This Aid is simply encouraging our Young to depend on Federal Welfare that will last for the rest of ther lives!!! Why didn’t their parents pay their own kid’s tuition? Are they on welfare? Is that how these brats learn to beg and grovel?

Let the Market decide. If children can’t afford to pay, noone will go to college. The colleges will lose money so to compete, they will LOWER their tuitions!!! Simple!!!

I am happy to say that under this Administration, Government Support for Students has dropped to unprecedented levels.

The Drug Users are just the beginning. Tomorrow will be the rapists and murderers. The day after that, EVERYONE ELSE!!!!

As it should be…

Posted by: Aldous at May 26, 2006 4:09 AM
Comment #151497

Alas, the pothead runs slower than the other druggies and is usually scooped up in the net first. I wrote in another thread about the plight of underachieving smokers who were unable to work even at menial jobs because of drug testing. My message was strongly critiqued by a poster who didn’t want to have his chips and soda sold to him by a clerk who was a drug addict.

Seriously, there should be a distintion between pot and heroin, crystal, coke and the other drugs where usage generally escalates to a crippling addiction. The worst thing you can say about pot is from that one true anti-drug ad, it can make nothing happen for you. I always felt that the tragic underachievers in that ad probably weren’t destined for the corner office anyway.

The government(state and federal) used to make a sensible distinction between users and dealers, but the advent of minimum sentencing laws with the crack bloom changed that policy. Minor convictions now follow people through their entire lives. This is unfortunate.

But if pot is included as a reason for denying educational funding, then alcohol offenses should logically be included also. Both pot and alcohol have been rites of passage for American youth for about fifty years. Colleges would have to close entirely if students with alcohol related offenses were denied loans or grants.

Posted by: goodkingned at May 26, 2006 5:32 AM
Comment #151516

So Aldous, shouldn’t Bush return his salary? Why should that dope fiend get paid by the tax payers?

Posted by: gergle at May 26, 2006 7:25 AM
Comment #151518

Before you try to turn this into a Bush bashing opportunity, please note that this was passed in 1988, the Clinton years. Minor infractions would have disqualified both recent presidents from educational loans or grants. Those are two interesting faces to put on this issue.

Posted by: goodkingned at May 26, 2006 7:39 AM
Comment #151521

Hey, I’m all for the return of Clinton’s salary, too.
The truth is, I suspect, most candidates of today tried pot at least once. That’s what the stats I read say.
An interesting article regarding pot and lung cancer was in today’s NYT.
My problem with this whole anti-drug policy is that it is anti-health. Any anthropologist will tell you all cultures of men use mood changing chemicals or rituals. I wonder who is ready to talk about the damage religious organizations cause our youth, through their mood changing rituals. There isn’t a credible doctor who thinks pot is particularly damaging. Your description of potheads as “slow” and unambitous isn’t supported by any credible studies I know of, besides being culturally biased toward the vice of avarice.

Drug abuse and addiction are health issues and social issues and shouldn’t be the game of politicians or money-hungry enforcement agencies. I have long been a supporter of William F. Buckley’s stance on this. Legalize it and let the market eliminate the drug trade and corruption of police agencies, then educate and treat the diminishing drug addicts brought about by sane rather than the mood addled rage of our current policies.

Posted by: gergle at May 26, 2006 8:14 AM
Comment #151528

gergle:

Whoa! You act as if sluggish, underachieving is entirely a bad thing. Compare it with the alternative, hyper overreaching. There is much more couch time with the first slower group. Slack is a valued commodity in this community. During my life I have continually been impressed with impact of slack on any situation. Sadly, slack is best appreciated after it is gone.

This is just one persons impression. However, if your experience is consistently different, I suggest that you aren’t doing it right.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the damage of mood altering rituals in mainstream religion. I don’t remember any experience of mood alteration associated with traditional religious services more severe than the shift from slightly bored to really disinterested.

At any rate, this sort of behavior is no reason to deny eligibility for loans or grants.

Posted by: goodkingned at May 26, 2006 8:49 AM
Comment #151529

Richard:

Is someone junenile record considered for purposes of eligibility or is it just the adult record of the applicant?

Posted by: goodkingned at May 26, 2006 8:52 AM
Comment #151535

Richard
Do students know they will loose their “aid” if they are caught smoking pot or doing drugs?

Posted by: kctim at May 26, 2006 9:25 AM
Comment #151563

Of course students should not be doing drugs and there should be some consequence. The problem with these sorts of automatic laws is they don’t account properly for first offenses or circumstances.

I have never in my life smoked marajuana and have no intention of doing it. BUT I have a roomate in college who was major pot head. Despite my threads to kick his ass and occassional actual implementations, he and his dopey buddies (several of whom called themselves Oz or Ozzy) continued to use the place. If the cops had come by, I would have been in trouble too.

Posted by: Jack at May 26, 2006 10:41 AM
Comment #151617

Exactly, Jack

There was a case in Ohio where they confiscated a couple’s house because their teenage son was dealing dope, unbeknowst to them.

Goodkingned, well, I presume you don’t go to the fire and brimstone, holy roller church. They are far too scary t sleep through. I do remember the mind altering drumbeats on the TV’s “Road to War”

Marijuana is classified medically as a hypnotic. I once had an employer who was a big advocate of hypnosis. He was a former race car driver who used it to control pain following severe injuries.

Hypnosis was also a staple of Houdini. Even boring church meetings can have hypnotic effects. I think frankly that this is the stragtegy of the Republicans since the days of Goldwater. If they plant enough suggestive drivel, they will build an allegiance of mind dead zombies. Seems to be working. I scored some good Godlwater buzz a while back.

Perhaps if you guys smoked a doobie it would snap you out of your zombie state.

(When I say chicken, you will strut like a chicken)

Posted by: gergle at May 26, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #151622
You want my tax dollars to fund drugdealers and hippies going through college? Are you serious? Why can’t these freeloaders pay their own way like the rest of us? Did they spend it all on coke and weed?

Damed straight!

Remember rapists and murderers can still get federal financial aid.

Unfortunately, Republicans don’t believe in cutting spending — but I’m sure Democrats will do away with financial aid for criminals when they take back Congress.

If I was too be caught with marijuana than I could lose my federal financial aid, which I truly needed.

Umm… Then don’t smoke pot. Duh.

Unless, of course, it has addictive qualities, in which case you should seek treatment — which may actually be (and probably should be, if it’s not) publicly financed…

Posted by: American Pundit at May 26, 2006 12:46 PM
Comment #151677

kctim: Unfortunately most students do not know about the provision. This happens because schools don’t tell them about it, because if they did it would be seen as advocating drug use.

goodkingned: honestly I am not too sure on the juvenile thing, I think it depends on the state but I am really not entirely sure

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 26, 2006 2:59 PM
Comment #151678

I’d like to point out that at least so far no one has really commented on the point to this piece the point to this piece is that neither the Green Party or the Libertarian Party have one single word on HEA in their party platforms.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 26, 2006 3:00 PM
Comment #151689

“If the education of these people are so important, let the States deal with it. Don’t let the responsible States in the South pay for another California Initiative”

Uhhh California’s taxes pay for federal programs in the south, not the other way around. California = 5th largest economy in the world…

Posted by: redlenses at May 26, 2006 3:21 PM
Comment #151745

I think it’s a sad law. I saw the same thing happen to a kid in highschool who on their last day of school was caught with a beer, hence taken off the football team, hence lost their completely free scholarship to college, hence did not go to college. I felt for him, and still think it was a raw deal to this day.

Anyway, I actually think we should legalize marijuana and tax it. The laws have done nothing but strengthen this drug. Regulated, it could go back to being what it used to be (a mild high) rather than what I’m told it’s been engineered to be now. Plus, we would save a ton of money. We are not going to pay for the Iraq war just by taxing cigarettes. :-)

Posted by: Max at May 26, 2006 6:38 PM
Comment #151747

Anyone who has a felony conviction should not receive Financial Aid from the government. I do not care if it is a drug conviction or a murder or a rape or stealing or what ever.

Obviously they should still be able to go to school but have to find another way to pay for it. I think that there are consequences for ones actions whether they realize it or not. Everyone realizes that if they use drugs they are breaking the law. With that in mind they also know that there are consequences to those laws that are broken and this should be one of them.


Posted by: Randall Jeremiah at May 26, 2006 6:43 PM
Comment #151774

Randall Jeremiah, no matter what you may think get your facts straight. You stated: “Anyone who has a felony conviction should not receive Financial Aid from the government. I do not care if it is a drug conviction or a murder or a rape or stealing or what ever.” So while you may be against felons getting financial aid whatabout persons with misdemeanor violations like posession of marijuana or drug paraphenelis. HEA takes away aid even from those with simple non-violent misdemeanor drug convictions.


Visit: http://www.raiseyourvoice.com/victims.shtml
for many tales of persons denied aid by HEA.

And if your interested in the excess of the drug war, checking out my reading list on my profile (of specific interest is “Shattered Lives” which chronicles the worst stories of victims of the drug war.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 26, 2006 8:22 PM
Comment #151817

I’m interestedd in the failure of the war on terror and Bush’s quagmire in Iraq. And I’m interested in affordable health care and our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

If securing free government grants for drug addicts is the big 3rd Party issue, then it’s no wonder you guys can’t build a constituency.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 26, 2006 11:18 PM
Comment #151842

My experience of marijuana is that it is very addictive and life damaging - for some of us at least. If it were legalized the tobacco companies would get a hold of it and “engineer” it to be even more addictive and life damaging, but maybe it should be legal anyway. People should not be denied educational assistance because of it. But of coarse, we have plenty of educational aid available - it is called Iraq - go there - get shot at - get bombed - get educational aid - no problem - that is the Republican plan - it works - the military was the best way to get ahead in Rome too. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Posted by: Ray Guest at May 27, 2006 1:06 AM
Comment #151846

Ray Guest,

A lot of things are psychologically addictive, like say, the internet. Marijuana is not physically addictive, like say, Cigarettes. Why should people who can deal with it, have to pay for those who can’t? Prohibition of Alcohol created Al Capone. Prohibition of drugs creates another massive criminal underground. Pot—relatively harmless.
Prohibition- deadly. I presume your comments about the military were sarcasm.

Posted by: gergle at May 27, 2006 1:56 AM
Comment #151875

I am still trying to figure out why Richard is so upset with Aldous’s comment, Let me get this straight… You want my tax dollars to fund drugdealers and hippies going through college? Are you serious?

That is exactly the thought I had. This article (as written) is based on the assumption that students have a right to a federal education subsidy.

Given that the federal government does subsidize students, and given that this subsidy is not an inalienable right of all students, there must be circumstances under which the government could cut off federal aid to a student. Under what circumstances would you feel it is appropriate to cut off federal aid to a student, Richard? I am not being at all sarcastic - this is a legitimate and serious question.

On the other hand, I don’t see any reason why pot smokers should be treated worse under this system than murderers are. But that doesn’t appear to be your main complaint. It’s not the same as saying that a student should have the ability to compel the state to fund a college education, while that same student flaunts the laws of the state.

Posted by: Wulf at May 27, 2006 10:08 AM
Comment #151879

And as a follow-up, the LP probably figures that there is no need to address this issue specifically, since they are calling to decriminalize anyway. That action would clear this issue right up, you have to admit.

Aren’t they opposed to HEA altogether? That might also explain why this doesn’t show up on their site.

Posted by: Wulf at May 27, 2006 10:26 AM
Comment #151962

Wulf: First I am unsure if the LP is opposed to HEA altogether, albeit that is very possible.

Secondly: The point of the article is not necesarrily to state that all students have a right to a free education (although I believe that to be true). Moreover HEA does not cover free education or scholarships, it covers federal financial aid in the form of loans (as it is concerned with the drug provision). The essential point of the argument I posed, which it seems you agree with, is that the drug provision is unnecessary and unfair. I base this on the fact that it unfairly targets only one group, drug offenders, while still allowing anyone who committed robbery, larson, rape, murder, other sexual offenses, etc etc etc to recieve aid. Moreover because of the monstrous size of the War on Drugs, the drug provision denies a huge number of persons the opportunity to afford a college education. While over 180,000 have been denied aid, this does not include those persons who decided to not even apply since they knew they would be denied (of course the number of persons in this category is hard to find, as they never applied for aid and thus cannot be truly counted accurately).

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 27, 2006 4:51 PM
Comment #151964

wulf asked: “Under what circumstances would you feel it is appropriate to cut off federal aid to a student, Richard? I am not being at all sarcastic - this is a legitimate and serious question.”

I would say personally under the following circumstances: 1. If they are convicted of violent crimes or sexual crimes while currently recieving aid. If the offense was in the past than that should not deny them from bettering themselves.
2. Most importantly, if they cannot maintain set academic standards to keep their financial aid package. Personally I would have to say that you would need to keep a minimum GPA of 2.7 to keep aid.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 27, 2006 4:55 PM
Comment #151965

And to clarify (1) from last comment I’d like to add. That there should exist a penalty period. Such as you’d have to wait “X” number of years after a violent crime or sexual crime, after being released, to recieve aid. I personally would make them wait between 3 and 5 years after being released before being able to apply for aid.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 27, 2006 4:57 PM
Comment #151966

And what I did not discuss in this piece, because I intend to have other pieces on HEA which will discuss this, is the fact that the HEA drug provision primarily hurts minorities and not “hippies” as so many have said.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 27, 2006 4:59 PM
Comment #151968

I’m a bit confused, I came across this from 2005

In a rare scaling back of a punitive federal drug law, Congress has decided to restrict the range of a provision of the Higher Education Act that takes financial aid for college away from students who have drug convictions. Currently, the provision applies to any drug arrest, no matter how trivial in nature or far in the past. While the new form of the law will still apply to minor offenses, and to past offenses committed while in school, it will no longer count drug offenses committed at a time when the applicant was not in school and receiving federal aid.

Granted it appears that this bill is still awaiting approval in the Senate but if the above is true, should not that be the goal at this point in time to get that approved? It seems that would be a faster solution.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at May 27, 2006 5:17 PM
Comment #151971

Having completed the FAFSA for three of my own children I remembered the one line question concerning a drug conviction.

I then found this

It should answer the earlier question concering arrests when a person was a minor as well as drug treatment, etc.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at May 27, 2006 5:29 PM
Comment #151984

Thanks for the link Lisa

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 27, 2006 7:23 PM
Comment #151989

Richard, you are most welcome, I tried to read all of H R 609 to see exactly what this bill stated since it appears it is still waiting for Senate approval but it was too much for me today.

:-)

Posted by: Lisa Renee at May 27, 2006 7:59 PM
Comment #151997

Thanks for clarifying. While I disagree with the underlying premise that it is a proper function of government to supply young adult students with access to a higher education as a right, I see nothing here that I would not agree with as a matter of practical policy.

So long as we do have federal loans, they must be administered fairly. The double standard you note here is ridiculous - frankly, it should be addressed in all party platforms.

Posted by: Wulf at May 27, 2006 8:46 PM
Comment #152081

Richard,

I am a student here at montana state. I am proud to say that I have never once taken an illegal drug. I also grew up in a single parent family due to cancer and get my entire education paid for by financial aid (Mostly loans: although I work extremely hard and have a 3.9 gpa, I have yet to find a scholarship that white males qualify for, no matter how poor or academically qualified they are).

Although I have never used pot or other drugs I have been in close contact with those who do for most of my life. This includes my ex-stepfather.

After my experience, I can say I strongly agree with wulf et al when they ask why should our taxes pay for these people’s education? I would like to add, whey should a hardworking student like me, who barely makes the bills, lose some aid to pay for lazy drug users? Furthermore, don’t tell me that saying they are lazy is stereotyping because it is true for 100% of the drug users I know.

I am, however, sympathetic to drug users who realize they made a mistake and want to change thier lives. For these people I would suggest one of the many fine organizations who provide private education loans.

You also ask why the green and liberatarian parties don’t take up the issue. Answer, they believe that the environment, imposverished people , ect is a higher priority then a bunch of potheads who are too lazy to vote.

Posted by: montanademocrat at May 28, 2006 8:47 AM
Comment #152083

I would like to add: from your website about the poor little potheads: it looks like if I took up potsmoking and quit, maybe I could get a scholarship

Posted by: montanademocrat at May 28, 2006 8:49 AM
Comment #152138

Wulf,
You know at first blink, I would agree that it shouldn’t be right to higher education. Then as I think about it, what is the purpose of a democratic government?

Of all the things that government could possibly do to help elevate their citizens, would education be one of those? We take for granted the “right” for the government to intervene in the economy, fund housing programs, police forces, jails, social services, water systems,roads, etc.

An uniforrmed electorate is bound to be vunerable to manipulation by anti-democratic politcal forces. We’ve come a long way since the days of Daniel Boone venturing into Kentucky with a long rifle and building forts. Government wastes a lot of the money we send it. Education of any kind, other than religious indoctrination, seems to me harder to waste. Many forward thinking societies do provide free higher education. In the frontiers of science and technology that we now face to remain a viable economic force, perhaps it is time to add education as a duty and right of a democratic society. If not a right, then perhaps foresight, like Jefferson’s Lewis and Clark expedition.

I would like to point out that many Universities are now skewed toward foreign students, partly by subsidies provided them, allowing them to increase profit by tilting away from native born students.

The punitive nature of HEA is more of the same hysterical anti-drug propoganda hyped by the very agencies that profit from these policies. How about someone thinking about longer term consequences and using some of that education to engage their brain is something more than knee-jerk reactionary politics?

Posted by: gergle at May 28, 2006 12:39 PM
Comment #152231

MontanaDemocrat: It is been proved again and again that education is one of the best ways to reduce recidivism rates.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 28, 2006 5:59 PM
Comment #152658

“Everyone realizes that if they use drugs they are breaking the law. With that in mind they also know that there are consequences to those laws that are broken and this should be one of them.”

Umm let me make sure I’m hearing people right, if President Clinton and President Bush were poor and on scholarships, they both should have lost their opportunity at an education because of their drug experimentation in college?

Oh wait I guess that only applies if you are poor and get caught… Thank god for all the rightousness.

Posted by: redlenses at May 30, 2006 2:15 PM
Post a comment