Colleges shouldn't ask about applicants' criminal histories, but most in Philly do - Generocity Philly

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Aug. 30, 2017 11:27 am

Colleges shouldn’t ask about applicants’ criminal histories, but most in Philly do

Community Legal Services just dropped a report on college admissions and students with criminal records.

University of Pennsylvania's admissions application asks about both convictions and adjudications.

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

Ban the box and Clean Slate initiatives have gained statewide traction in recent months as means to eliminate barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated folks.

But what about those folks facing barriers to education?

This morning, Community Legal Services (CLS) released its report “Opening Doors: How Philadelphia Area Colleges Can Promote Access & Equity by ‘Banning the Box,’” arguing that local colleges shouldn’t ask its prospective students about their criminal histories in their applications.

Why? The practice disproportionately affects youth of color, who are criminalized at higher rates, and doesn’t improve campus safety.

The report came out of the Youth Justice Project, a program co-led by CLS and Philadelphia Legal AssistanceCLS employment attorney Jamie Gullen was the lead on the report.

“Removing questions about juvenile and criminal records from their applications,” Gullen said in a statement, “will encourage young people to access higher education, and will send an important message about the value of racial equity and diversity on campus.”

Read the report

The report even features a report card for area colleges.

Community College of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, for instance, earn an A for asking no question about applicants’ criminal histories, whereas the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University earn Ds for asking about both convictions and adjudications.

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