I Would Have Gone to College, But I Got High

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The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a conservative education think tank headed by former Assistant Secretary of Education Chester E. Finn Jr., editorializes against the Higher Education Act's denial of federal aid to students convicted of drug offenses:

Eighteen-year-olds are not noted for their rational thinking. It's naive to assume that the high school senior, offered some marijuana at a party, will base his or her inhalation decision on calculations of opportunity cost and forthcoming Pell Grant dollars.

That lack of maturity doesn't excuse the 18-year-old's behavior. But it does challenge the economic justification behind withholding student aid from convicted drug users. If the fear of being arrested and temporarily jailed doesn't stop an impulsive young person from enjoying a little weed, are we to believe that concerns over future college loans will do the trick? That's just bad thinking.

So while the federal government has set up a dubious incentive for young people to shun drugs, it has inadvertently created a direct incentive–by withholding money–for young people to avoid college.

It's not exactly a ringing condemnation of the war on drugs, especially since it's preceded by three paragraphs emphasizing that Drugs Are Bad, but it's notable coming from an organization headed by Finn, a longtime associate of Bill Bennett who worked for the former drug czar at the Education Department.

I hasten to add that I'm not endorsing taxpayer-funded grants and loans to college students. What I find objectionable about the policy is a feature the Fordham Foundation barely alludes to: the bizarre decision to treat pot smokers as less worthy of aid than predatory criminals.

[Thanks to Chaim Katz for the link.]

NEXT: Pot, Lung Cancer Not Linked

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  1. I think i will use thefollowing comment more often to make several points at once:

    If only we could get the right people in office.

  2. I bet most high school students and college students don’t even know about this law.

  3. not until you fill out the fafsa.

    college students who have filled out the form should already be aware.

    this makes about as much sense as banning kids from extracurricular activities because of drug use – y’know – the activities most likely to keep them off of drugs.

  4. <sarcasm> Yeah, but screwing over the kids sends the right message in the War on Drugs.</sarcasm>

    If only we could get the right people in office.

    Nope. Backwards. People under any form of government that depends on having the right people in office sooner or later get screwed. The original idea of our Founding Fathers was to Constitutionally limit government so the inevitable wrong people couldn’t cause too much trouble before they were replaced.

    Unfortunately, given the progressive interpretation of the Constitution and a 98% reelection rate, that system is currently badly bent.

  5. The entire Education System – not to mention Criminal Justice System – is based upon the assumption that people can not only change but become capable of making informed decisions better after entering the system than before.

    And I’m not even saying that the drugs themselves should even be deemed illegal in the first place. But a well-rounded, rigorous college education usually includes critical thinking as well as some time spent pondering the Constitution other guidance on rights and stuff. Heck, the last thing we’d want in our society is a bunch of educated tax payers.

  6. It’s not exactly a ringing condemnation of the war on drugs, especially since it’s preceded by three paragraphs emphasizing that Drugs Are Bad

    this guy happens to think Drugs Are Bad, but its your own damn right and your own damn business if you do them. Does that make me a bad libertarian? Am I a crypto-drug-warrior?

    The entire Education System – not to mention Criminal Justice System – is based upon the assumption that people can not only change but become capable of making informed decisions better after entering the system than before.

    Actually, it’s predicated on the notion that you can engineer a human the same way you engineer a car. It’s something that’s been a staple in the visions of oligarchists who don’t actually dislike oligarchies so much as the fact that they and their friends aren’t in charge.

  7. rafuzo:

    Is alcohol “Bad”?

    (That quibble aside, I actually do agree with the rest of your points – which doesn’t happen too often.)

  8. Some years ago, I gave college a try, but found it impeded the learning process to the point of absurdity.

    Never again.

  9. Re: “The Hook”

    What’s up with the big-titted cartoon bondage bitch ad?

  10. Is there Pell money going unspent that could otherwise go to drug users?

  11. People under any form of government that depends on having the right people in office sooner or later get screwed.

    Gee, you got it but didn’t get that it is meant satirically, hence the preface. It’s a typical liberal’s lament when they observe the government isn’t functioning the way they think it should. But it is also true of other political stripes.
    When republicans were complaining about Clinton, at root it is a wish to have the “right” people in office. But then they go on to illustrate why it doesn’t matter. Whe they decide that the right people are in office, they become complacent and let the right people off the hook when they do bad.
    If only we could get the right people in office.
    Decent hard working people who want to be a contribution don’t bother to run for office, and even if they do, they must change to win office and stay there.

  12. What I will do is make the test into a link to refers to a discussion on the absurdity of the wich to get the right people in office.

  13. What I will do is make the phrase

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