Common Application bans the box!

On August 7, 2018, the Common Application announced  that it is dropping the criminal history question from its college application form starting with 2019-2020 applicants.  Currently over 800 colleges and universities use the common application.  The criminal history question first appeared on the common application in 2006.  Individual colleges who are members of the Common Application will still be able to make inquiry on their own.

For the past decade, the Common Application has been under pressure from advocates, educators and the U.S. Education Department under the Obama administration to remove the criminal history question from its application form.  The call to remove the criminal history question from college applications first came from the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) in its 2010 publication, The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered.  A second study with policy recommendation was published by CCA in collaboration with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition in 2015, Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Application Attrition, and underscored the harm done by the use of the criminal history box on college applications.

As more colleges and universities have banned the box, the Common Application has been under growing pressure to abolish this discriminatory and counterproductive practice.  Removing barriers to the admission of students with criminal history records to higher education is one way to improve public safety, combat mass incarceration, and make reentry meaningful.

Feds nudge colleges to go “beyond the box”

1024px-US-DeptOfEducation-Seal.svgThe Department of Education (DOE) is asking colleges and universities to reconsider the use of criminal record inquiries on admissions applications in a new report released on Monday. The report, Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice-Involved Individuals, looks at how broad inquiries into applicants’ criminal histories may deter people with criminal records from applying for post-secondary educational opportunities.  It also suggests steps schools can take to ensure that their admission processes promote second chances for qualified applicants with criminal records, including banning the box on initial applications.

According to the report, “A survey of postsecondary institutions found that 66 percent of them collect CJI [criminal justice information] for all prospective students, and another 5 percent request CJI only for some students.”   The Common Application, a uniform application used by nearly 700 schools, has since 2006 asked whether a person has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, “or other crime.”   Some schools that use the Common Application allow applicants to opt out of disclosure, or delay criminal history inquiries until a preliminary admissions decision has been made.  Other schools use their own non-standard applications which may require disclosure of convictions, arrests, or mere allegations of misconduct.

Read more