So now that we’re in college, attempting to get a degree, we can all look back on our teenage adolescent years, when listening to punk rock and ditching school was the “in thing,” and say that we did some really stupid things growing up. Well at least I can attest to that. Fortunately, we all grew out of it, were given second chances, either by our parents or the law, and somehow wound up at UCSB to pursue a successful future.
Lots of our student community, as well as a large portion of students in all higher education institutions, are attending school on some type of federal financial aid. In the 1960s, the Higher Education Act was created in order to increase opportunities for millions of students to continue their education after high school. It is through the HEA that we have federal financial aid such as Pell grants, work-study programs, and low-interest loans. The HEA has provided programs that have opened the doors to millions of students from all communities to motivate and empower them to seek higher education as a future. It is only recently that the HEA has also begun to deny access to these students.
This is where the problem comes in. Second chances. In 1998 a provision was made to the Higher Education Act that would delay or deny federal financial aid based on a drug conviction. Instead of increasing educational access as the HEA has done in the past, this provision will decrease and deny access to thousands of students seeking aid in order to attend a university. To date, the drug provision has denied financial aid to over 14,000 students.
The HEA drug provision penalizes students and prospective students twice for the same offense. It is estimated that between 40,000-60,000 students, by the end of this academic school year, will formally be denied some or all federal financial aid. Someone who is in pursuit of a future and a successful career should not be prevented from doing so because of a mistake they might have made in the past. It is a bad policy to continually punish students in a way to discourage them from pursuing higher education. Every student deserves a second chance.
In states like California, where we are currently No. 1 in prison spending and No. 41 in education spending, it is time we call upon our representatives to take action and make sure that educational access remains a priority. With the power of student voices on a statewide and nationwide level, we have the ability to move forward House Resolution 786, which would repeal the drug provision in the HEA.
It is crucial that students’ voices are represented and action is initiated to ensure that the drug provision is repealed and that the Higher Education Act remains true to its original purpose of increasing access to education for all students. Tonight Associated Students Legislative Council will be voting on a piece of legislation that would support the passage of H.R. 786. They meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Flying A Studios room in the University Center.
For more information and to get involved in the statewide campaign to repeal the drug provision in the HEA you may call the Associated Students Main Office at (805) 893-2566 or email me at .
Eneri Rodriguez is the A.S. external vice president for statewide affairs.