Lawmaker to Reintroduce Bill to Remove Drug Offenses as Barrier to Student Aid

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (PA), a Democrat on the chamber's education committee, intends to reintroduce legislation to eliminate drug offenses as a barrier to federal student aid, according to Inside Higher Ed.

In 1998, Congress voted to deny federal financial aid to students convicted of a drug-related offense, adding a question about student drug convictions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Lawmakers in 2006 narrowed eligibility restrictions, updating the law to only deny Title IV funds to applicants who were convicted of a drug offense while they were receiving student aid.

Data from the U.S. Education Department show that at least 1,000 students each year lose full or partial access to Title IV aid because of a drug-related conviction. However, that finding fails to capture the number of students who never apply for aid, expecting that they will not qualify, Inside Higher Ed reported.

The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success (SUCCESS) Act, first introduced in 2016, would eliminate the statutory language restricting aid, as well as the drug offense question on the FAFSA.

"Forcing students to drop out of college for committing a youthful mistake does nothing to reduce drug abuse or crimes on campus," Sen. Casey said in a statement. "Repealing the Aid Elimination Penalty will reduce recidivism, over-criminalization, and tax-payer burdens by stopping the suspension of college aid for young people who made a mistake but want to get their lives back on track."

Lawmakers in both parties and both chambers are focused on simplifying FAFSA as part of the Higher Education Act reauthorization. Proponents of the forthcoming bill hope that simplification will include eliminating the question about drug convictions while receiving federal aid, as well as the corresponding section of federal law denying aid to students with such convictions.


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