Advancing Financial Aid Reform through the Proposed SUCCESS Act

On February 11, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the bipartisan Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success (SUCCESS) Act. The bill would remove a key barrier to federal financial aid for individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system. Under the new law, people with drug-related offenses would be eligible for federal grants, loans, and work study aid. Further, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) would no longer ask about applicants’ previous convictions for the sale or possession of illegal drugs.

The proposed reforms are timely. The Obama Administration’s recent Second Chance Pell pilot program has highlighted the importance of postsecondary access as part of a broader effort to reform the criminal justice system. Building on the CLASP-supported Second Chance Pell initiative, the SUCCESS Act would create new pathways to financing postsecondary education for the millions of eligible individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system. Historically, these individuals have experienced significant unmet need and missed out on opportunities to obtain postsecondary credentials, limiting their employment options and preventing economic advancement. This is especially true for individuals who are actively serving time.

These reforms would also help remove barriers to postsecondary education for low-income people, particularly those of color, who have been disproportionately incriminated. Young men of color, specifically, are the most over criminalized population for drug offenses. Combined with other structural inequalities, this creates significant challenges for postsecondary and workforce access. Removing the penalties for previous drug convictions would help move the needle on education and employment as well as racial equity.

CLASP strongly supports increasing access to federal financial aid in ways that benefit nontraditional students, as noted in our recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The SUCCESS Act would align with the goals of our recommendations to increase financial aid access for those who stand to benefit the most. By making financial aid responsive to today’s students, who are far more likely to be nontraditional than in any prior generation, we can provide a fairer path to college degree attainment and economic success.  It’s the right thing to do—for students and for the country.

On February 11, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the bipartisan Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success (SUCCESS) Act. The bill would remove a key barrier to federal financial aid for individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system. Under the new law, people with drug-related offenses would be eligible for federal grants, loans, and work study aid. Further, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) would no longer ask about applicants’ previous convictions for the sale or possession of illegal drugs.

The proposed reforms are timely. The Obama Administration’s recent Second Chance Pell pilot program has highlighted the importance of postsecondary access as part of a broader effort to reform the criminal justice system. Building on the CLASP-supported Second Chance Pell initiative, the SUCCESS Act would create new pathways to financing postsecondary education for the millions of eligible individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system. Historically, these individuals have experienced significant unmet need and missed out on opportunities to obtain postsecondary credentials, limiting their employment options and preventing economic advancement. This is especially true for individuals who are actively serving time.

These reforms would also help remove barriers to postsecondary education for low-income people, particularly those of color, who have been disproportionately incriminated. Young men of color, specifically, are the most over criminalized population for drug offenses. Combined with other structural inequalities, this creates significant challenges for postsecondary and workforce access. Removing the penalties for previous drug convictions would help move the needle on education and employment as well as racial equity.

CLASP strongly supports increasing access to federal financial aid in ways that benefit nontraditional students, as noted in our recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The SUCCESS Act would align with the goals of our recommendations to increase financial aid access for those who stand to benefit the most. By making financial aid responsive to today’s students, who are far more likely to be nontraditional than in any prior generation, we can provide a fairer path to college degree attainment and economic success.  It’s the right thing to do—for students and for the country.

- See more at: http://www.clasp.org/issues/postsecondary/in-focus/advancing-financial-aid-reform-through-the-proposed-success-act#sthash.yGihBRhw.dpuf
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