Report: Criminal and Disciplinary History in College Admissions

December 17, 2019
  • Campus Safety
  • Compliance and Reporting
  • Crime Reporting and Disclosure
  • Ban the Box
  • Disciplinary Notations
  • work group
gavel and scale in law library

AACRAO's Criminal and Disciplinary History in College Admissions work group released its report today.  According to the report:

"More than 70 million Americans have criminal records. The number of persons in the United States with criminal records nearly equals the number of persons with 4-year college diplomas. A young adult today is 36 percent more likely to be arrested than their parents. Nearly a third of Americans have a criminal record by the age of 23. Nearly 50 percent of black males have been arrested by the same age. Annually, over 600,000 people leave state and federal prisons and re-enter society. The social, economic, and civil rights consequences of these facts are severe not only for those with criminal records but also for American society as a whole."

A chilling effect

 Criminal history questions on college applications "seem to impede access for prospective students with many kinds of criminal history, including misdemeanors," the report notes. Given that, and the magnitude of the numbers above, this report is vital to postsecondary institutions focused on access and equity.

"A big thank you to the members of the work group," said AACRAO Executive Director Mike Reilly. "This is a very complicated topic where members hold a wide range of opinions and views. I think the work group has provided a thoughtful review and set of recommendations to our members and the higher education community."  

If an institution has a choice, consider not asking criminal history on the application for admission.


Report recommendations

The work group, comprised of AACRAO members representing diverse positions, institutional types, and geographic locations as well as representatives from other higher education associations, recommends that if an institution has a choice, consider not asking criminal history on the application for admission.

The report also includes recommendations on  the use of the disciplinary notations in the admission process and  regarding criminal history questions in the admissions application, including the placement of questions and the timing of collection of this information (prior to or after admission).

The work group has sent recommendations to the AACRAO Board for review and presentation to membership for feedback and implementation.