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.