Criminal Records Impact College Admissions

Posted: November 5, 2010 in impact of records on education

“The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered” a new study by the Center for Community Alternatives, shows that a majority of colleges and universities now collect criminal history information as part of the college admissions procedures. The survey was done in collaboration with the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. The survey found that a broad array of convictions, including convictions for relatively minor offenses, are viewed as negative factors in the context of admissions decision-making.

Among the studies key findings are:

* 66% of the responding colleges collect criminal justice information, although not all of them consider it in their admissions process.
* A sizable minority (38%) of the responding schools does not collect or use criminal justice information and those schools do not report that their campuses are less safe as a result.
* Most schools that collect and use criminal justice information require additional information and procedures before admitting an applicant with a past criminal record including consultation with academic deans and campus security personnel.
* Less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information.

The use of criminal history records in admissions decision making is problematic for a number of reasons: there is no empirical evidence that shows a links between having a criminal record and posing a risk to campus safety; criminal record information is often inaccurate or misleading; and racial disparities in the criminal justice system means that young people of color are more likely to be affected by admissions practices that screen for criminal records.

In light of the findings, CCA offers a series of recommendations designed to make admissions processes fairer and more evidence-based. A college education is one of society’s most potent and effective crime prevention tools. It opens doors of opportunity, enhances critical thinking, and leads to better and more stable employment. If past criminal convictions are preventing qualified young people from going to college, society as a whole is the loser.

To read the entire study, click here.

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