Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Drug War Explosion to Expulsion

The Aid Elimination Penalty of the Higher Education Act is a federal law that denies student loans and other education assistance to students convicted of a drug law violation. Tens of thousands of students have been kicked out of college because of it, mostly for simple possession of marijuana. Momentum is building to repeal this unfair law this year, but we need your help.

A few months ago, Rep. Barney Frank (MA) introduced legislation (H.R. 5157) to repeal the Aid Elimination Penalty. It now has 80 co-sponsors, more than enough to show House leadership that there's support for ending the draconian penalty this year.

On the Senate side, Sen. Christopher Dodd (CT) has introduced legislation (S. 2767) that would give judges the option of letting students keep their school loans as part of a sentencing agreement that ensures they finish college. If enough senators co-sponsor S. 2767 we believe we can pass it this year--and that's where you come in.

Please take a few minutes today to call your two U.S. senators and urge them to co-sponsor S. 2767:

Phone calls will make the biggest impact in this campaign. But if you can't call, you can look up the email addresses and fax numbers for your two U.S. senators at http://dpa.convio.net/site/R?i=LMLT2xBP6bORCQd8lSD8ag

It is vital that all members of Congress--Democrats and Republicans--hear from you. Congress needs to know that the American people want this law repealed. People shouldn't be discriminated against simply for what they choose to put into their own bodies absent harm to others, and people convicted of drug law violations shouldn't be denied opportunities to finish school and put their lives back together.

Thank you,

Bill Piper
Director of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

More Information:

In 1998, Congress passed an amendment offered by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) to the Higher Education Act (HEA) that bars people with drug law convictions--no matter how minor--from receiving student
financial assistance for specified periods of time (a year to life depending on the severity and number of drug law violations). More than 200,000 people have been denied student loans and other assistance because of the law.

In 2006, Congress passed a partial reform of the penalty. This change amended the HEA to allow some students with past offenses to receive aid, but it still retains the penalty for those whose offenses were committed while they were enrolled in school and receiving aid. In other words, tens of thousands of students are still being kicked out of college for minor drug law offenses like simple marijuana possession.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance mailing list at drugpolicy.org or 202.216.0035.

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