State PIRGs' Higher Education Project
218 D Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 546-9707

Director:
Ivan Frishberg

Advocate:
Ellynne Bannon

 

June 13, 2002

The Honorable Howard "Buck" McKeon, Chairman
Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness
2242 Rayburn House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Patsy T. Mink,
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness
2210 Rayburn House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman and Representative Mink,

The United States Student Association and the state Public Interest Research Groups are writing to express our support of an amendment to be offered by Rep. George Miller to H.R. 4866, the technical amendments bill to the Higher Education Act. This amendment is an important step in eliminating financial barriers to higher education.

Section 484(r) of the Higher Education Act—Suspension of Eligibility for Drug Related Offenses—currently mandates that a student who is convicted of a drug offense automatically be rendered ineligible for Title IV aid. Rep. Miller's amendment would make a number of important changes: first, it would amend the current law to apply only to students who are convicted of a drug offense while receiving aid; and second, it would grant judicial discretion. Judicial discretion would allow the courts to determine whether or not to recommend loss of Title IV eligibility as a penalty for a drug offense and to eliminate "double jeopardy"—instances when students lose their financial aid eligibility in addition to a judicial penalty or sentence.

The amendment would also eliminate the need to list the drug conviction question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), ending the confusion amongst applicants that has kept thousands of students from receiving financial aid to attend college.

While we are disappointed that these changes were removed from the final version H.R. 4866, we strongly support Rep. Miller's amendment to restore them. We believe that Section 484(r) is a flawed higher education policy that keeps thousands of eligible students out of college classrooms. We support full repeal of Section 484(r) and we look forward to continuing to work with you to remove these barriers to ensure access to higher education for all Americans.

Sincerely,

Julia Beatty
United States Student Association President
Ellynne Bannon
State PIRGs Higher Education Advocate

cc: The Honorable John Boehner, Chairman, House Education and Workforce Committee
The Honorable George Miller, Ranking Member, House Education and Workforce Committee