Wednesday, February 07, 2018

W.Va.'s free-college deal would come with a drug test

West Virginia legislators are moving a bill to "create a last-dollar benefit to cover the outstanding costs of tuition and mandatory fees not covered by Pell Grants or other grant aid," Adam Harris reports for The Chronicle of Higher Education. But there's a catch: prospective students would have to pay for, and pass, a drug test to qualify for the scholarship.

That's kicked up some controversy in a state hard-hit by the opioid epidemic. Sponsor Mitch Carmichael, president of the Senate, which passed his Senate Bill 284 unanimously, said "From a state perspective, it helps us say to the world that our work force is drug-free, trained, educated, and ready to go to work." He also says it provides an incentive for people to be drug-free.

Critics say it's unclear how the state will carry out the testing, and whether a student would be excluded for taking legally prescribed painkillers or medication-assisted treatment drugs, which are opioids that prevent an addict from going through withdrawal.

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