Law Restricting College Aid for Drug Offenders Upheld

By Mark Walsh — April 29, 2008 1 min read
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A federal appeals court has rejected a constitutional challenge to a federal law that restricts, and in some cases bars, students with drug convictions from participation in federal college aid programs.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled in Students for Sensible Drug Policy Foundation v. Spellings that the controversial sanctions do not violate the double-jeopardy clause of the 5th Amendment.

The student group argued that the primary purpose of the law is deterrence of criminal action, so the secondary sanction on those convicted of drug crimes is form of double jeopardy.

But the court noted that, under the law, a student may restore his or her eligibility for federal student aid by completing a drug-rehabilitation program.

“And the section was enacted as part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998, which were primarily designed to increase access to college and make it more affordable,” the court said.

Education Week reported in this 2001 story that the Bush administration was taking a strict approach to the law, requiring all applicants for federal student aid to answer a question on aid forms about whether they have ever been convicted of the covered drug offenses.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.