To the Editor,
Two years ago, the University of North Carolina unveiled the Campaign for Carolina, an ambitious, five-year, $4.25 billion capital fundraising campaign with the slogan "For All Kind." The catch phrase elicits a sense of inclusion, community and a continuation of our reputation as the University of the people. One of the core priorities of the fundraising campaign is to "provide access to all,” meaning that students should have the ability to attend UNC regardless of their family’s income.
This isn’t a newfound commitment; Carolina has an impressive record of supporting low-income and economically disadvantaged students, most notably through our Carolina Covenant scholarship – one of the most generous need-based scholarships in the nation. It is through the University’s commendable effort that we meet 100% of student financial need for eligible students and are consistently ranked the best value public school in the nation.
Low-income students are typically given top-notch financial aid packages; however, some unlucky individuals every year are left out to dry as a consequence of our nation’s harmful and draconian substance abuse and addiction policies. The Aid Elimination Penalty is a little known provision of the Higher Education Act that bars students from receiving federal financial aid for a year if they are convicted of drug possession, and the length of ineligibility grows with each subsequent offense.
The intended purpose, to reduce drug use, is unsubstantiated. A 2014 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found no evidence that the Aid Elimination Penalty deters drug offenses on college campuses or reduces drug-related crime. Further, the Government Accountability Office corroborated the study’s claims and found no significant evidence that the provision has a deterrent effect.