In the past, college students who were also financial aid recipients could find their aid packages threatened after receiving convictions on drug-related criminal charges. However, a congressional committee recently took steps to change this, which could prove to be a major benefit for many of today’s financial aid-receiving college students.
According to Forbes, college students convicted of drug sales, drug possession or similar offenses have historically lost their ability to utilize federal financial aid in the wake of drug convictions. Because of the existence of the Higher Education Aid Elimination Penalty, they would become ineligible for federal assistance for a year or more, depending on the severity of the drug conviction received.
Arguments for repealing the HEAEP
Critics have long argued that the HEAEP is fundamentally flawed for a number of different reasons. For starters, they assert, it is counterproductive to penalize students caught with drugs by making it tougher for them to further their education. Furthermore, the rule unfairly penalizes minorities and those with lower incomes. Minorities have long been more frequent targets of drug enforcement efforts than their white peers, meaning they may be more likely to lose financial aid due to drug convictions than others. Also, taking away financial aid particularly penalizes those with little income, because those with higher income levels may be able to finance higher education even after losing aid.
Proposed FAFSA changes
Those in favor of repealing the HEAEP are also looking to eliminate a question about drug convictions currently listed on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Some argue that the question itself is unclear, while others contend that it unnecessarily deters prospective college students from applying for aid in the first place.