Clinton White House Considered Drug Testing Student-Loan Applicants

It was a lifetime ago where drug policy is concerned, but the Clinton administration wasn’t ahead of its time when it came to asking kids to pee in cups.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
April 23, 2014, 11:17 a.m.

It didn’t make it in­to the flurry of news cov­er­age on Fri­day, but when the latest batch of in­tern­al doc­u­ments was re­leased from the Clin­ton White House, a par­tic­u­larly curi­ous line of poll ques­tion­ing stood out.

In 1998, the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion poll tested the idea of mak­ing col­lege stu­dents pee in cups to prove they’re not on drugs in or­der to qual­i­fy for fin­an­cial aid, ac­cord­ing to pa­pers re­leased by the Clin­ton Lib­rary.

While the col­lect-stu­dent-pee idea was nev­er im­ple­men­ted, Clin­ton did sign the High­er Edu­ca­tion Act reau­thor­iz­a­tion in­to law in 1998. The le­gis­la­tion in­cluded a meas­ure strip­ping aid from more than 200,000 stu­dents con­victed for drug of­fenses, something drug re­formers have come to refer to as the “smoke a joint, lose your fed­er­al aid” pro­vi­sion. The pro­vi­sion has since been scaled back, though nev­er fully re­pealed.

Back then, a full 75 per­cent of people sup­por­ted re­quir­ing ap­plic­ants to pass a drug test in or­der to re­ceive stu­dent loans, and 80 per­cent sup­por­ted lim­it­ing the eli­gib­il­ity of ap­plic­ants for fed­er­al stu­dent loans should they ac­tu­ally test pos­it­ive, ac­cord­ing to the polling res­ults cited by the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion. Be­low is the rel­ev­ant sec­tion from Fri­day’s re­lease:

It might as well have been a life­time ago where drug policy is con­cerned.

In 1998 med­ic­al marijuana was only leg­al in a hand­ful of states (today it’s avail­able in 21). The ra­cially loaded dis­par­ity in sen­tences for users of crack and users of powdered co­caine was still 100-1. And Stu­dents for Sens­ible Drug Policy, an or­gan­iz­a­tion formed to op­pose policies such the ones polled above, didn’t even ex­ist yet.

“Leg­al­iz­a­tion was barely a top­ic for de­bate, much less the main­stream, ma­jor­ity-sup­por­ted is­sue it is today,” said Tom An­gell, who spent sev­er­al years on staff at SS­DP be­fore go­ing to work for an­oth­er pro-re­form group, Marijuana Ma­jor­ity. “If you polled this ques­tion in 2014 I’m con­fid­ent you’d see dra­mat­ic­ally less sup­port for this dra­coni­an policy than the Clin­ton White House found in 1998.”

Per­haps the most rel­ev­ant de­bate today re­volves around re­quir­ing food-stamp re­cip­i­ents to take drug tests — and the pub­lic has evolved there less than you might think. The House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives re­cently passed le­gis­la­tion that would al­low states to re­quire food-stamp re­cip­i­ents get drug tested, and a ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans (64 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Huff­ing­ton Post/YouGov poll) still like the idea of drug test­ing for wel­fare re­cip­i­ents, a more stig­mat­ized pop­u­la­tion than col­lege ap­plic­ants.

But if there’s one pop­u­la­tion Amer­ic­ans most like to see forced to pee in cups, it ap­pears that it would be Con­gress. Too bad the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t think of polling that.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 hours ago

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Variety Looks at How Michelle Obama Has Leveraged Pop Culture
6 hours ago

“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

New York Times, Other News Organizations Hacked
7 hours ago

The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."

NLRB: Graduate Students Can Unionize
7 hours ago

In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.

Cruz Approval Ratings Underwater
9 hours ago

Following Texas Senator Ted Cruz's controversial decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, instead telling voters to "vote (their) conscience," a new poll out today shows that his approval ratings have sunk. The poll from Public Policy Polling shows that 39 percent of Texans approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 48 percent who don't approve. Additionally, despite winning the GOP primary in the state, the poll found that if the primary was held today, Trump would garner 52 percent of support to just 38 percent for Cruz.