Nebraska Criminal & Trial Lawyers
College Application App Will Stop Asking About Criminal Histories

College Application App Will Stop Asking About Criminal Histories

The Common Application, an app that students use to fill out a free online form and apply to multiple colleges, has announced it will no longer include questions about a student’s criminal history. The change will happen in 2019.

According to The Atlantic, more than 1 million students apply to college through the Common App every year. More than 830 higher learning establishments use the app for school admission decisions.

The change may benefit those with more barriers to college

Though it is hard to know the exact impact, the app’s popularity suggests the effect may be significant. It is likely students who have the most difficulty getting into college could benefit, specifically lower income people of color. This group is disproportionately represented in the prison system.

A 2018 study found that one in five black men from the lowest income U.S. families go to jail each day. The Atlantic also stated poorer people of color are more likely to receive tougher prison sentences and have less access to experienced legal representation.

Colleges may still ask about convictions

However, this change does not mean students will never be asked about their criminal histories. Schools could still ask for the information in application supplements. Colleges can ask students to fill out supplements in the Common App. Estimates show that currently 80 percent of private universities and 55 percent of public schools ask about applicants’ criminal convictions.

Students with criminal convictions also barred from certain loan programs

Other parts of the college application process also remain punitive to students with a criminal history. A federal law bars anyone who receives federal financial aid, like Pell grants, Stafford loans or work study programs, from continuing to receive this aid if they are convicted of a drug crime. Any incarcerated students cannot receive Pell grants.

For those convicted of a crime, many experts agree education is the key to helping them reenter society successfully. Other efforts to reduce crime, like mandatory minimum sentences, do not work. Though some universities will likely continue to inquire about criminal convictions, this policy change may alter some schools’ perspectives.


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