About two-thirds of post-secondary institutions ask applicants to submit criminal history, according to The Crime Report.
The Center for Community Alternatives found that 25 percent of these schools bar applicants with criminal history from attending. This prevents individuals who have already paid their debt to society from finding success going forward.
There are an estimated 70 million American citizens with criminal records, according to The Crime Report. Colleges and universities can help remove barriers to higher education for these people. Higher education can be an essential tool to finding successful employment, especially for former prisoners re-entering society after their sentence ends.
Help may be on the way. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) has introduced a bill (Senate Bill 3435, the Beyond the Box for Higher Education Act of 2018) that would provide resources and recommendations for colleges and universities that want to remove criminal and juvenile record questions from their applications.
On average, those with post-secondary education make 74 percent more than people with a high school diploma or less. People with doctoral and professional degrees earn three times as much as those with less than a high school diploma, accord- ing to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These trends contribute to a positive cycle, as children are more likely to attend college if their parents did.
There are still opponents to the efforts to remove criminal record questions from college applications. Opponents fear increased crime on campus if these questions are removed. However, screening applicants for prior convictions has not proven to reduce campus safety. In fact, to date, people with no criminal record have commit- ted some of the most serious crimes reported on campuses, according to The Crime Report.
There is significant evidence that education provides an essential pathway to success. Among other things, employers increasingly seek cognitive skills (like communication and analytics), rather than physical skills, from their applicants. Now, colleges and universities have the opportunity to end one barrier to higher education entry for the 70 million Americans with criminal records.