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Higher Education Act

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Higher Education Act

The red and blue lights turn on followed by the siren. You pull over to the side of the road and nervously get your license and registration out. The officer comes to the car and tells you that it smells like marijuana. Then he says, "Who's got the dope?" He searches the car and finds a baggy with marijuana in it. You are being arrested for possession of marijuana. As a result of this mistake you now have to go to jail, later be reamed by your parents, harassed by your friends, and pay hundreds of dollars in legal fees. Later that year, while applying for financial aid, you are again punished for this one mistake by being denied financial aid. "To date, more than 160,000 financial aid applicants have been denied aid as a result of the drug provision in the Higher Education Act"(Wibby). The Drug Provision of the Higher Education Act is unreasonable and needs to be fully repealed.

First, the current Higher Education Act punishes offenders twice for the same crime. Students being denied aid have already paid their price to the criminal justice system. It does not make sense to continually punish young people in such a way that limits their ability to get an education and improve their lives. Additionally, judges handling drug cases already have the power to deny drug offenders federal benefits, and school administrators have the power to expel problem students. These are the people who know the students best, and they should be the ones who decide their educational futures - not the federal government.

Next, this act punishes lower-income families. Denying financial aid to students hurts only those students who need the aid, namely, children of lower-income families. Children of the well-to-do need not worry about losing their college opportunities--they can afford the quality legal representation necessary to avoid drug convictions as well as the price of tuition without financial aid. Young previous offenders are likely to be adversely affected by setbacks like the inability to raise money for tuition and may be sent into a downward spiral toward failure.

The current Higher Education Act also steers at-risk students away from education and into a cycle of failure and recidivism. According to the St. Petersburg Times:

Some 240 organizations and 115 student governments have petitioned Congress to get rid of the ban. They aren't arguing that drug use should be legalized, or that students should be freed of responsibility or criminal sanction. Their point is that young people do make mistakes and removing them from college only makes it more likely they will make more. That's how some of them end up being criminals as adults.

Further, college enrollment reduces the likelihood that an individual will return to engaging in illegal activity. The Correctional Education Association also reports that prisoners who receive at least two years of higher education have a 10% re-arrest rate, compared with a national re-arrest rate of about 60%. Denying education to low-income and at-risk students only dooms them to a life without the financial opportunities bestowed by a



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