March 23, 2006
Tackling subsidy abuse
Last July I wrote about a provision in the 1998 Higher Education Act that denies college financial aid to people with drug convictions on their records—and has now done so to something like 200,000 would-be students. As Ruth Blauer, executive director of the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs, pointed out at the time, this is insane:
Preventing people from higher education does nothing to prevent drug abuse or help people get over their addictions. Actually, being enrolled in college reduces the likelihood that people will head down the path to drug abuse.
… Additionally, receiving an education reduces the likelihood that individuals coming out of prison will return to engaging in illegal activity, including drug use.
The Correctional Education Association found that prisoners who receive at least two years of higher education have only a 10 percent [re]arrest rate, compared with a national rearrest rate of about 60 percent.
… Graduating more college students [also] means increased tax revenue from greater economic productivity, whereas incarcerating more prisoners means that taxpayers must pay the bill for increased criminal justice spending.
More than 200 organizations, including the American Public Health Association and the National Association for Public Health Policy have asked Congress to repeal the HEA drug provision—all to no avail. Exasperated, the American Civil Liberties Union and Students for Sensible Drug Policy are now suing the federal government to challenge the law's constitutionality—and they’re seeking, well, 200,000 plaintiffs. For more information, visit the SSDP’s Web site or drop them an email.
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