Lawsuit Challenges Financial Aid Ban For Student Drug Offenders

Washington, DC: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Drug Law Reform Project, along with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), has filed a federal class action suit against the US Department of Education challenging the constitutionality of a Congressional ban on financial aid for students convicted of a minor drug crime while attending college.

The Congressional ban, known as the “Aid Elimination Provision” of the Higher Education Act, has denied federal financial aid to an estimated 200,000 students since its enactment in 1998. Though Congress amended the law earlier this year so that students with past drug convictions may now apply for federal financial aid, students who are convicted of a nonviolent drug offense ­ including minor marijuana possession ­ while in college continue to lose their federal aid eligibility under the law.

The lawsuit contends that the federal ban is unconstitutional because it amounts to double jeopardy, further penalizing students who have already been criminally sanctioned by the courts. The suit also argues that the law violates students’ right to due process, and disproportionately impacts minorities.

“This lawsuit seeks to ensure that no student will ever again have to worry about losing their financial aid, and with it, their access to higher education, because of a minor drug conviction,” SSDP Executive Director Kris Krane said. He added that SSDP and the ACLU are actively seeking additional plaintiffs to join in the class-action lawsuit.

For more information, please visit:

ACLU Drug Law Reform Project
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Congressional ban on financial aid
Congress amended the law