Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), along with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), announced that they have introduced the Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act (SUCCESS Act), a bill to promote achievement in higher education by removing questions about prior drug charges. Specifically, the bipartisan bill repeals the section of the Higher Education Act of 1965 that strips federal financial aid for college students convicted of a drug offense. Data shows that students from low-income and minority backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the existing drug disqualification. Students convicted of drug offenses remain subject to criminal penalties for their offenses, but removing the higher education disqualification ensures that they are not subject to a second punishment.
“Higher education is the stepping stone to economic security. A youthful mistake shouldn’t keep a person out of college and the middle class,” Senator Casey said. “If someone is forced to drop out of college because they can’t get federal financial aid then it’s more likely that person will encounter the criminal justice system in the future. By giving these young students a second chance we can measurably change their lives for the better.”
Subsection 484(r) (also known as the Aid Elimination Penalty) is the statutory authority for the both the FAFSA drug conviction question and the financial penalty. If a student is convicted of a drug crime while receiving federal financial aid, that student is likely to be stripped of their aid eligibility in addition to whatever consequences they receive from the criminal justice system. The SUCCESS Act eliminates the penalty and removes the drug conviction question from the FAFSA form.