Yale University has recently changed its policy to allow students with drug-related offenses to receive financial aid — if they agree to undergo drug rehabilitation at the same time.
Yale is the fourth school to enact such a policy along with Swarthmore College, Hampshire College and Western Washington University.
These decisions were made in response to the Higher Education Act of 1998, which stipulates that any student with drug offense charges will be denied federal financial aid until the student completes drug rehabilitation. There is a question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application asking students if they have prior drug offenses or convictions. Students who have previous offenses or convictions are either immediately denied or given the chance to complete rehabilitation and be reconsidered.
Yale and the other three schools are not violating the Higher Education Act because it only addresses federal funding — It sets no rules against private aid for students with drug offenses.
“The policy was adopted to address the concern that there could be a student that would have to leave Yale because of a lack of aid,” said Tom Conroy, deputy director of public affairs at Yale.
Students at Yale will now be able to receive aid on “the condition that the student enters a drug rehabilitation program that would allow them to regain their eligibility for federal aid … it is designed as temporary aid,” Conroy said.
Yale’s policy is also intended to encourage students to seek treatment for any drug problems.
The decision to create a new policy regarding financial aid and drug offenses stemmed from the debate over the Higher Education Act.
“It generated debate at a lot of schools. At Yale it led to a consensus to adopt this [new] policy that is consistent with [our financial aid policy]. We’re a need blind institution and we provide the full student aid, the full demonstrated need,” Conroy said.
Many students at Yale applaud the administration’s decision.
“We’re very excited that Yale has embarked upon this new course,” said Vidhya Prabhakaran, president of the Yale College Council. “It’s one of the few times that people are clapping for the administration.”
He added that he believes that the change is due to the hard work of many student activists and is necessary in opposition of the Higher Education Act.
Yale freshman Yasemin Schatz agreed and added that “drug offenses are a personal thing … they shouldn’t hold that against [whether you receive financial aid].”
At Cornell, there are no plans to implement a new policy since some officials believe that it has not yet been needed.
“We haven’t issued a formal policy because we haven’t been confronted with any cases,” said Tom Keane, director of financial aid at Cornell.
In the past few years since the Higher Education Act was enacted, there have not been any reported applicants with drug offenses requesting financial aid at Cornell. Although new policies have been enacted at Yale and three other institutions, no students with drug offenses have yet to come forward and request financial aid at these schools.
Archived article by Diana Lo