Today SUNY voted to remove questions from applications about the applicant’s criminal record. This is an important step towards making access to education easier for people who have been convicted of crimes.
As explained in a detailed report from the New York City Bar Association*, over the past decade, colleges and universities have increasingly included criminal history screenings and exclusionary policies in their admissions processes, even though there is no empirical evidence that students with criminal records pose a greater risk to campus safety than students without criminal records. Often, this process imposes a great burden on applicants with criminal records. Applicants must answer numerous supplemental questions and produce extensive documentation. The process can be daunting and frustrating, and the practical impact is that many of these applicants are either unable to provide the required documentation and simply abandon the application process altogether.
Until now, SUNY which consists of 64 campuses with more than 465,000 students in four-year colleges, graduate schools, and community colleges, has maintained a system-wide policy of screening college applicants for past felony convictions. No longer. The vote today to remove questions about criminal history from applications is an important step towards making college accessible to all New Yorkers.
* Allegra Glashausser chaired the New York City Bar Corrections & Community Reentry Committee at the time the referenced report was produced.