A wave of drug policy reforms could soon reach college financial aid offices.
A group of senators from both sides of the aisle will introduce legislation Thursday that would end a federal law that bans student drug offenders from receiving financial aid, the Huffington Post reports.
According to the Post, the Department of Education reports that 1,107 financial aid applicants lost eligibility for a drug offense between 2013 and 2014. The number was five times higher in 2008.
Civil rights advocates complain that the policy disproportionately affects minorities because they are more likely to be arrested and enter the criminal justice system for minor offenses, such as marijuana possession.
The proposed legislation, Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act (SUCCESS Act), would not only repeal the law, but also remove the drug offense question from federal financial aid applications.
“A youthful mistake shouldn’t keep a person out of college and the middle class,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told The Huffington Post. “There’s now an emerging bipartisan consensus on the need to reform our criminal justice system and ensure students who have already paid their debt to society are not punished twice.”
Casey co-sponsored the measure with fellow Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch.
Hatch told the Huffington Post: “It is not the Education Department’s job to punish students for drug infractions. Statistics and common sense tell us it is bad policy to deny students education if we want to reduce drug abuse and encourage young people to become successful.”
Previous efforts to repeal the law failed. But many advocates are optimistic this time because of Washington’s bipartisan agreement regarding the need for criminal justice reform, the Post said.
SOURCE: Huffington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty