PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new report calls for ending the practice of asking about criminal history on college applications. The study finds the impact falls disproportionately on would-be students of color.
Philadelphia has “banned the box” on employment applications: the box applicants used to check if they had a criminal record.
Community Legal Services attorney Jamie Gullen says research in the new report shows it’s time to do the same on college applications.
“Just placing that question on the application really does pose a substantial barrier, primarily to students of color,” said Gullen.
Gullen says black youth are almost four times as likely as white youth to have a juvenile record and be discouraged from completing an application.
Al Flowers was not discouraged when Drexel rejected his application because of his criminal record. He got his bachelors at Philadelphia University and applied to Drexel for graduate school.
This time, he got in, which he sees as an opportunity.
“I will make it obvious to Drexel that their policies need to be changed,” said Flowers.
Gullen says CLS also found the question does not improve campus safety; 97% of campus crimes are committed by people with no previous records.
Ten local colleges have eliminated the question. A dozen others use a common application that does ask, though a record isn’t necessarily disqualifying.