Senior Yale administrators have approved a new policy that will reimburse students for financial aid for which they would otherwise be ineligible under the “Drug Free Student Aid” provision of the Higher Education Act, Director of University Financial Aid Myra Smith said.
The 1998 “Drug Free Student Aid” amendment to the Higher Education Act denies federal financial aid to students convicted of drug offenses. Under Yale’s new policy, the University will offer such students supplemental aid in the same proportion of loans and grants that they would have received from the government.
“I think it’s a well reasoned approach,” Smith said. “It obviously emphasizes that rehabilitation is a part of what we’re doing, but also emphasizes that we don’t want to interrupt someone’s education financially.”
Andrew Allison ’04 wrote the Yale College Council resolution passed Feb. 27 asking the University to take the steps delineated in the new policy.
“I’m thrilled with the announcement and I think it’s a great victory for student activism,” Allison said. “I think the administration deserves praise for taking such bold and reasoned action.”
Kat Banakis ’03, a member of Student Legal Action Movement, said she is glad to see the efforts of SLAM, the New Haven and Yale chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, and other campus groups who have rallied around this issue finally pay off.
“It’s very rare in activism that you actually get something back, so this is incredible,” Banakis said. “It’s also wonderful that the Yale administration is being receptive to student resolutions and protests and willing to work with the finances that they have to do something that students have been asking for.”
Smith said she brought the proposed policy before the financial aid advisory committee — which is made up of three undergraduates — on Monday to ask for their feedback. None of the three members could be reached for comment yesterday.
The new policy states that Yale will only offer supplemental aid to students who have lost eligibility because of possession of illegal drugs, and not to those who lost federal aid for selling illegal drugs. The policy also requires students who receive the replacement aid to complete a drug rehabilitation program at University Health Services or another qualified health care provider approved by UHS.
Banakis said the campaign to convince Yale to reimburse students for the aid lost under the Higher Education Act drug provision began about three years ago under the leadership of Alexandra Cox ’01.
“When she was a student here, Alexandra Cox had a lot of press,” Banakis said. “She was quoted in Rolling Stone and on MSNBC. She was one of the first students to make a step for it, [and] the movement got picked up at Oberlin and other colleges.”
Swarthmore approved a policy in February awarding students the aid lost under the Higher Education Act.
Smith said it is important to note that the new policy is unlikely to affect a large number of students because to date no Yale student has ever lost eligibility for federal aid under the current law.
Currently, every student who applies for aid from Yale must first apply and be found eligible for federal aid, Smith said. Allison said he was pleased that the new policy does not simply make students eligible for Yale aid, but also replaces the aid they will not receive from the federal government.
“I think that it sends a message that the original law is unjust,” Allison said. “It shows that Yale truly believes its students should be able to get the education they deserve.”