The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has joined the nationwide ‘Ban the Box’ movement by urging colleges and universities to consider delaying questions about an applicant’s criminal record until after admission decisions. The effort is part of a larger push by the Obama Administration to address the barriers facing the estimated 70 million Americans that have been involved in the criminal justice system through either an arrest or conviction.
Guidelines were released earlier this year, which provide information about how current approaches to collecting criminal history create barriers to access education and potentially exclude qualified students. A report, which the DOE is calling ‘Beyond the Box,’ provides options for altering the admissions process and offers tips for how to provide support to students with a criminal background.
Criminal History Has Affected Some Applicants
A survey of postsecondary institutions revealed that 66 percent of colleges and universities ask prospective students about criminal history as part of their standard application process. The DOE found that 35 percent of those institutions denied admission to at least one individual because of criminal history.
Many of the postsecondary institutions who ask about criminal history claim that they need to collect such information about prospective students to identify potential threats to campus safety. However, DOE research suggests that colleges and universities who admit students with a criminal history have no greater crime than institutions that do not.
Those who advocate for removing or delaying questions about prospective students’ criminal backgrounds argue that it will help alleviate the risk of alienating potential applicants and unnecessarily eliminating qualified applicants. As support for the ‘Beyond the Box’ initiative, the DOE cites a recent study by the State University in New York, which found that nearly two-thirds of individuals with a felony conviction discontinued applications when asked about their criminal history.
Standard Applications Ask About Crimes
While some institutions are required by state law to collect this information, others opt to do so because they use Common App. More than 600 postsecondary institutions use Common App to streamline undergraduate college applications. Common App asks prospective students to indicate if they have been “adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime.”
A spokesperson for the Common App has said that the 2016-2017 application will include a question about criminal history, but the phrase “or other crime” will be removed because it was deemed confusing to applicants. Common App does allow colleges and universities to suppress applicants’ answers to any questions, but this would not address the concern that having to answer the question early on would scare away someone with a criminal record. The organization has indicated that it will initiate a review to determine whether additional revisions should be made to the Common App.
Some Ohio Colleges Considering Removal of Criminal History Questions
Ohio State University and other central Ohio colleges and universities currently have criminal history questions as part of their applications. However, Otterbein University is considering removing it from their applications. Despite most Ohio institutions having a criminal history question on their applications, most have said that they would not automatically rule out a prospective student due to a conviction.
The DOE report cites Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland as an example of how institutions can provide support services to students with criminal records to help remove barriers they may face both inside and outside the classroom.
How a Columbus Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we understand that having a criminal record can have significant consequences for your future. If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced Columbus criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. We always fight to obtain the most favorable result possible for our clients and we are dedicated to providing exceptional customer service every step of the way.
If you or a loved one are in need of criminal defense representation, contact us today at (614) 500-3836 for a free consultation.