Student Financial Aid Now Available to Former Drug Offenders

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, African Americans are about 13 percent of all illegal drug users in the United States. But blacks make up 38 percent of those arrested on drug-related charges and 59 percent of those convicted on drug charges.

Therefore, a new provision passed by Congress, which opens up student financial aid for those convicted of drug-related offenses, will have a disproportionate benefit to African Americans. It is estimated that 175,000 people of all races have been denied student financial aid since 2000 because of past drug convictions.

Under the new rules, people who were not enrolled in school at the time of their arrest and conviction can apply for federal financial aid. Students who are convicted while receiving federal aid will lose their eligibility for one year after the first offense but can reapply after the probationary period.

A new survey from the Coalition for Higher Education Reform reports that 24 states deny state financial aid for higher education to drug offenders. But 17 of these states merely follow federal guidelines. So, presumably, past drug offenders in these states will now be eligible for state aid as well as for federal money.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.