Parents of college students may have heard that students who are also financial aid recipients may become ineligible for federal assistance after receiving a conviction for a drug crime. To date, any college student who was receiving financial aid at the time of his or her drug arrest would become ineligible for financial aid for at least a year. However, a congressional committee recently voted to change this on the grounds that it was a counterproductive way to handle individuals struggling with substance abuse problems.

While it is not yet clear if legislators are going to formally repeal the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty, supporters of doing so argue that the best defense against future drug crime is giving offenders a quality education.

Other arguments for repealing the HEA

Those in favor of repealing the HEA also argue that it unfairly penalizes the people who need it most. Those who have the financial means to pay for college outright, for example, do not need to worry about a drug arrest jeopardizing their ability to continue their education. Similarly, research shows that authorities disproportionately target people of color when it comes to enforcing drug laws, so supporters of repealing the act assert that it may, too, be discriminatory in nature.

Proposed changes to the FAFSA

Other important changes may also take effect that would remove some of the language used on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA form asks about whether applicants have ever received drug convictions, but if the new bill moves forward as written, it would eliminate this question.

Research shows that limiting a student’s access to education harms not only the student but the community at large. Many believe that eliminating the HEA and deleting the FAFSA question about past drug convictions would open up new opportunities for individuals who might otherwise be too fearful to apply for federal financial aid.