87,000 students didn't start school this fall
According to new Department of Education data, over 30,000 college students have been denied federal loans and grants for the 2002-2003 school year due to the 1998 Higher Education Act drug provision. Since the HEA drug provision was first enforced in 2000, a total of 86,898 students have been denied aid. A drug conviction is the only crime that can result in the loss of federal financial aid.
"The latest Department of Education statistics confirm that the punitive HEA drug provision remains the number one obstacle for people seeking a higher education," says Shawn Heller, National Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). "Since African Americans make up half of all people convicted of drug crimes, yet only represent 13% of all drug users, it's evident that this regulation disproportionately punishes minorities.
"Tens of thousands more have likely not bothered to apply for college because they know they won't receive loans or grants. SSDP is working on 500 campuses to end this education disaster," says Heller.
SSDP has 148 officially recognized chapters on college campuses across the country, but the network is expected to grow this fall. "SSDP has experienced phenomenal growth due to a student backlash to the HEA Drug Provision, and we know of students on 350 other campuses who are working to establish new SSDP chapters this fall," says Darrell Rogers, SSDP National Outreach Coordinator.
SSDP organizers are gearing up for protests and civil disobedience this fall to increase public pressure on lawmakers to repeal the HEA drug provision. Amanda Brazel, a senior at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, says, "I believe in equality, freedom, and truth, values that are lost in the war on drugs, values worth working to restore." Brazel knows numerous people who have been impacted by the legislation. "I'm one of those people who thinks I need to stand up and do something about America's un-American war on its own citizens."
In the past couple years, members of Congress have taken notice of the terrible impact the HEA drug provision has had on middle and lower income students. Even the author of the HEA Drug Provision, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), asked the Department of Education to find ways to reduce the number of students affected, but the agency has concluded that only congressional action can reduce the huge number of students that are denied a chance to improve their lives.
In a letter sent by the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform to Congress in May 2002, 41 national education, civil rights and drug policy organizations - including SSDP, the National Education Association, the NAACP, the ACLU, the United States Student Association, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and the National Black Police Association - urged full repeal of the Higher Education Act Drug Provision.
A bill to repeal the drug provision, H.R. 786, has 68 sponsors, but is unlikely to be passed before the 107th Congress dissolves at the end of 2002.
For more information contact Shawn Heller (SSDP) at 202-293-4414 or browse www.ssdp.org on the web.
795 South Cedar - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550