Student loan/drug offender screening continues

A computer matching program designed to keep drug offenders from getting

student loans will continue, even though the automated matching effort has

led to few loan denials.

The Education Department's Office of Student Financial Assistance said

Wednesday it is renewing a long-running agreement with the Justice

Department to share information kept in agency computer databases to

identify student loan applicants who have state or federal drug convictions

that make them ineligible for loans.

The matching program compares Social Security numbers and the first two

letters of a loan applicant's last name with similar information kept in a

Justice database.

Of 9.8 million applications sent to the Education Department for the

1999-2000 school year, 24 were rejected after being flagged by the Justice

data base.

The Justice Department's Denial of Federal Benefits Clearing System keeps

track of names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and other information

on individuals convicted of federal or state drug offenses and those

seeking student loans. The Justice database also lists benefits that

convicted drug offenders are prohibited from receiving.

The two agencies routinely renew the program, which runs for 30-month

cycles, an Education official said. The department is required under the

1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act to screen out applicants ruled ineligible for

loans because of drug convictions.

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