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A War on Drugs or a War on Students?
January 7, 2002
by David Brown

Common sense would dictate that education is one of the most basic solutions to many of the problems faced by society. Yet people like Indiana Congressman Mark Souder (R) seem to believe that the key to helping young people is a refusal of education. What was originally established to financially aid college and college-bound students is now being used as a political ploy to convince voters that action is being taken against the faceless enemy of the war on drugs. In reality, however, the enemy in the war on drugs is not faceless: It is the face of a generation.

The Higher Education Act of 1998 (HEA) contains a Drug Free Student Aid Provision-an amendment that will delay or even deny federal financial aid to students who reveal drug convictions. According to the provision, financial aid is delayed one year for a first offense, two years for a second, and indefinitely for a third. This rider is an absurd insult to the concept of education and must be repealed.

The question must be asked: who is truly going to be helped by this provision and who is going to be hurt? The answer is simple: absolutely no one will be helped. In fact, society as a whole will be harmed. Every student who is denied financial aid to the extent that (s)he is not able to pursue college education is statistically less likely than a college graduate to legitimately contribute to society and is, in fact, more likely to partake in illegitimate affairs in order to compensate for the income lost due to lack of educational opportunities.

Worse yet, the HEA (as it stands today) exclusively targets only low or moderate-income students. Because the law only regards students in need of financial aid, it is virtually not applicable to high-income students with drug convictions. What grounds can possibly justify the taking of education from select students based on what economic bracket they happen to fall under?

Unfortunately, this incongruous law also treats racial minorities unfairly. According to the United States Justice Department (in 1998), African Americans comprise only 13% of drug users, but account for 55% of those convicted for drug offenses. These demographics represent explicit emphasis of drug law enforcement on the African American community, and because of the Drug Free Student Aid Provision; specifically African American drug offenders are more likely to be denied federal financial aid than drug offenders of any other ethnicity.

Now is the time to stop ignoring the truth. Students and non-students from all across the nation are uniting to protect what has been called the "D.A.R.E. generation." Action is being taken and citizens are working hand in hand with congressmen to put an end to a law that is destroying opportunities for the very people it is clamed to protect. Join arms with Students for Sensible Drug Policy at www.ssdp.com to let Congress know students will not support a law with the potential to hurt them. Silence is complicity!

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