LOS ANGELES (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Education wants colleges to limit inquiries of a prospective student’s criminal record.
The department released the recommendation Monday as part of a new resource guide called, “Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice-Involved Individuals.”
“We believe in second chances and we believe in fairness,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said. “The college admissions process shouldn’t serve as a roadblock to opportunity, but should serve as a gateway to unlocking untapped potential of students.”
King made the announcement at UCLA, which doesn’t ask about legal encounters on its admission applications.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch also supports the recommendation.
“Too many Americans are denied opportunities to lead fulfilling and productive lives because of a past arrest or conviction — including opportunities to access a quality education,” Lynch said. “Expanding access to higher education for justice-involved individuals can help them step out of the shadow of their pasts and embark on the path to a brighter future.”
A 2015 Center for Community Alternatives study showed that two-thirds of individuals with felony convictions who started applications for admission to State University of New York schools never finished the application process because they had to detail their convictions.
Recommendations by the Department of Education include:
— Delaying requests for criminal records until after an admission decision has been made.
— Explaining how students can answer questions about their criminal past.
— Avoiding broad questions about the criminal record.
— Allowing students the chance to explain the encounters.
— Training admissions personnel and counselors on the use of criminal history data.
Last July, the department announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot program to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell grants and pursue a post-secondary education with the “goal of helping them get jobs, support their families and turn their lives around.”
In November, the department also announced up to $8 million to support education and re-entry success, including employment, for individuals who have been incarcerated.
At the same time, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to prevent federal employers from asking about a potential employee’s criminal history.
The move is part of a growing “ban the box” campaign, in which advocates encourage businesses — not just the federal government — to avoid including a check box asking about criminal history on job applications.
Copyright 2015 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.