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New Bill Would Allow Students With Past Drug Convictions To Receive Federal Aid

Federal aid makes it possible for an untold number of college students to afford steep tuition fees. Each year, around 1,000 students lose that financial assistance because of a “yes” response to a specific question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form: “Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans)?”

A bill introduced by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker would remove that question from the FAFSA form and would allow those with prior drug convictions to still receive federal aid to attend college. Federal aid can be the difference between college dropout and college graduate for some, particularly those coming from low-income families.

Politicians and civil rights groups have fought to remove the question for that very reason.  The bill introduced by Booker, along with other Democratic Senators, would accomplish that goal, in addition to simplifying the FAFSA process and making FAFSA available to DREAMers. As a somewhat recent college graduate who relied on federal aid to get me through four years, I can attest to the baroque and confusing nature of the FAFSA form.

“We know that when a student completes the federal financial aid form, he or she is more likely to receive aid, attend college, and graduate from college,” Booker said in a release. “But sadly, less than half of today’s high school students complete the form, and students from underserved backgrounds complete the form at even lower rates than their peers. We must make the process of obtaining aid for higher education easier.”

Booker has been one of the most vocal pro-cannabis advocates in Congress. He introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in 2017, which would have effectively legalized cannabis at the federal level.

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