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U.S. Department of Education Pushes For Change in Criminal History Questions in College Admissions

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The U.S. Department of Education pushed for a major reform in college admissions applications today, specifically with questions pertaining to an applicant’s criminal record. These barriers can prevent the estimated 70 million citizens with criminal records from pursuing higher education, which the Department is looking to end immediately.

One recommendation made was the creation of a new resource guide deemed, Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice-Involved Individuals. This guide encourages alternatives to inquiring about criminal histories during college admissions and provides recommendations to support a holistic review of applicants.

“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. As nation we must work to make that commonplace, to We must ensure that more people, including those who were involved in the criminal justice system in their past but paid their debt to society, have the chance at higher education opportunities that lead to successful, productive lives, and ultimately create stronger, safer communities.”

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch added,

“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.” She continued. “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. I commend the Department of Education for its commitment to expanding opportunities for returning citizens, and I look forward to continuing to work with them – and with our partners across the Obama Administration – to give every deserving American a meaningful and fair second chance.”

King made the announcement at UCLA, part of the University of California system, which does not inquire about criminal justice involvement on its admissions applications.

“I wholeheartedly support Secretary King’s ‘Beyond the Box’ initiative, and I believe there are better ways to ensure campus safety than stigmatizing those who are trying to better their lives through higher education,” University of California President Janet Napolitano said.

Evidence suggests that requesting criminal justice information may deter potentially well-qualified applicants from enrolling in post-secondary education and training. The goal is to end that immediately and change the mentality of higher education.

See some more specifics on the new “Beyond The Box” initiative on the following page.

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