AACRAO and NACAC Urge Campus Discussions about Admission Policies for Students with Criminal or Disciplinary Records

The U.S. Department of Education is calling on colleges to expand opportunities for the estimated 70 million Americans who have some form of a criminal record. In a 51-page guide released Monday, federal officials offer recommendations regarding the ways colleges ask students about their criminal or disciplinary records.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) are hopeful that the new guide will encourage thoughtful discussions about the best ways to promote equity, support safe campuses, and serve students who have been involved in the criminal justice system. We are grateful to the administration for launching this guide and encouraging discussions on campuses about providing a second chance to individuals with criminal or disciplinary records, while also maintaining concern for the safety of all students.

Research shows that minority students and youth with disabilities are disproportionately singled out for punishment in K-12 schools as well as the criminal justice system. NACAC and AACRAO recognize and appreciate the department's attention to that differential treatment. In addition, we understand that admission processes vary widely from college to college. As such, there are a multitude of ways to design equitable admission systems while still meeting institutional needs and policies.

NACAC and AACRAO encourage enrollment professionals to study the guide's discussion questions and to offer guidance to prospective students about how to respond to questions related to involvement in the criminal justice system.

College admission professionals understand and support the intent of expanding access. The higher education community has long wrestled with the question of what behaviors should have an impact on college admission. At the same time, admission offices must make decisions about a broad spectrum of behaviors that inform decisions about the admissibility of prospective students to the institution.

NACAC and AACRAO are hopeful that the new guide will encourage thoughtful discussions about these important issues within the higher education and counseling communities.


AACRAO is a non-profit, voluntary, professional association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals representing approximately 2,600 institutions in more than 40 countries. Its commitment to the professional development of its members includes best practice guidance on admissions strategies to meet institutional diversity objectives, delivery of academic programs in innovative ways to meet the needs of a changing student body, and exemplary approaches to student retention and completion.


The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of more than 15,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process, as outlined in the NACAC Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP).