House Backs Ban on Aid to Drug Offenders
Washington--The House voted last week to bar some people convicted of drug offenses from receiving student aid for as long as 10 years.
That penalty would apply to anyone convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to a prison term of at least a year. People convicted of two or more lesser drug offenses within a 10-year period would be barred from receiving student aid for five years.
Offenders would also be cut off from most other forms of federal assistance, except for Social Security, welfare, and certain veterans' benefits. Federal officials could restore benefits to offenders who had completed drug-rehabilitation programs.
The House voted 335 to 67 to at4tach the provision, which was sponsored by Representative Bill McCollum, Republican of Florida, to an omnibus anti-drug measure that was still being debated late last week.
"This will get the attention of college students," Mr. McCollum said.
Opponents warned that the measure would prevent offenders from using education to change their lives. They also maintained that it is unfair to single out drug offenders for a loss of aid when those convicted of violent crimes can continue to receive federal assistance.
Both the higher-education community and Education Department officials have opposed the aid-cutoff idea. They have argued both that there is no evidence that many convicted drug offenders receive student aid and that the measure would be very difficult to enforce.
The drug bill, HR 5210, also would create new education programs targeted at youths. The initiatives, to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, would fight drug involvement among gang members, support a youth-sports program on college campuses, and provide anti-drug education to disadvantaged and runaway young people.
A Senate task force is expected to introduce a companion bill shortly.