The Editorial Board at the New York Times published an editorial on September 21st, 2014, pointing to the obstacles individuals with criminal records face in being admitted to higher education programs. The editorial states:
“There is a widely overlooked obstacle to higher education that confronts at least 70 million Americans who have criminal records — often for relatively trivial transgressions in the distant past. Many colleges ask applicants about criminal convictions before deciding on their suitability as students. And since criminal records are often inaccurate and misleading, these screening systems are inherently unfair. Bills pending in both houses of the New York State Legislature would require colleges to judge an applicant on academic merit and other normal criteria and ask about run-ins with the law later.”
In 2010, a study by the Center for Community Alternatives revealed, based on surveys of 273 colleges, that two thirds of these colleges collected criminal information on applicants. The Editorial Board briefly goes into the problematic nature of such an evaluation and recommends that instead , “[colleges should] remove the question from the initial college application and ask it after the applicant has been given a conditional offer of acceptance. (This would ensure that people with criminal histories are evaluated based on the same criteria as others.) Beyond that, however, colleges should not require disclosure of youthful misdemeanors like underage drinking or fare beating, which present no danger to public safety. And they should give students an opportunity to show proof of rehabilitation, like letters of recommendation, evidence of community service and so on.”
The editorial concludes with a push towards overturning the 1994 legislation that eliminated Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals and thus reinstating higher education programs within prisons. “The point — just as it is with reforming the college admissions process — is to give people a fair chance to get on with their lives.” The Prison Studies Project couldn’t agree more.