DRUG AND AID LINK CRITICIZED
For the last five years, current and hopeful UI students caught toking up in their dorms, in a back alley, or at a Dave Matthews Band concert could've lost their student aid - and 2,367 of them from Iowa did.
The Hawkeye state ranked 12th in the nation in terms of students denied financial aid because of a drug conviction, according to a report released by the Department of Education at the request of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
However, the student group and others say the accuracy of the numbers - - which come from prospective students in the United States and internationally - could be much higher because students can be deterred from applying or will simply lie on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.
"Dishonesty goes with the game when you are dealing with drugs," said Christopher Randolph, a doctoral intern with the UI Counseling Service.
Randolph, who likened the government's program to a "lifetime sentence," said drug-recovery programs often stress the importance of telling the truth and being honest about the student's drug addiction.
"I think it would put a student who is recovering in quite a bind," he said.
While the Department of Education has no authority - or even a simple mechanism to cross-check drug convictions - the federal financial aid form states anyone giving "false or misleading" information could be fined $20,000 and/or sent to prison.
However, some have proposed different types of changes.
"We in financial aid have long said [drug punishment] should not be tied to whether or not the student should get financial aid," said Cathy Wilcox, senior associate director of the Office of Student Financial Aid. "It presents a hardship for people who want to better themselves."
Wilcox's contention is one shared by Randolph.
"It seems a little harsh," he said, "especially when there are other options."
Randolph proposed a system of "probational financial aid," in which the student with the conviction would still be eligible for government funds but would be monitored to ensure they didn't abuse again and received good grade.
"I'd like to see more a more rehabilitation aspect," he said.
In Iowa, 2,367 - or 0.259 percent - of applicants were denied admittance out of a state pool of 915,034, over the past five years, the report states.
The overall denial average for the same time frame is 0.246 percent, with 189,065 of 74,784,347 applicants denied for past drug transgressions.
The state with the most denials was Indiana, at .500 percent. The least was Vermont, at .118 percent.
Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2006 The Daily Iowan