Meeks: School Loans For Convicted Drug Users
Congressman Gregory Meeks of the Sixth Congressional District, New York has initiated sponsorship of new legislation to ensure federal financial assistance for all students who deserve it. Titled H.R. 696, The Responsible Student Financial Assistance Assurance Act of 2003, the bill would permit all eligible students to apply for federal financial aid, including those who had previously been denied aid due to a conviction involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance prior to enrollment at an institute of higher learning.
The bill seeks to correct the current interpretation of H.R. 6. Passed by Congress in 1998, the law includes an amendment that aims to deny students federal aid who had been convicted of any Federal or State law regarding a controlled substance while enrolled at an institution of higher learning and receiving financial aid. The Department of Education is applying the statute further than what Congress intended and applies the ban to persons who are applying for financial aid and those not yet enrolled in an institution of higher learning at the time of an offense.
Congressman Meeks stated, "This legislation will serve the true intent of the original language- to punish those who were receiving federal financial assistance at the time they were convicted of a drug-related offense, rather than, continuing to punish those who have made a mistake and are attempting to improve their lives. This misconception is not merely a question of right or wrong, but yet another lost opportunity to offer economic and education equity to many who so willingly seek it. More than 43,000 people this year alone will be denied federal financial assistance under the current screening process of the Department of Education.