Biden admin calls for removal of criminal background question on college applications

Campus Reform, Austin Brown

In an April 28 post on “Homeroom,” the official blog of the Department of Education (ED), ED called on schools to remove the criminal background question from admissions.

“This Second Chance Month … ED calls upon institutions across the country to re-examine their admissions and student service policies and holistically determine how they can better serve and support current and formerly incarcerated students. We call on you to ban the box,” ED urged.

The “ban the box” slogan alluded to a campaign started by the civil rights group All of Us or None in 2004 which aims to remove questions asking about prior criminal convictions from employment application materials.

“The campaign challenges the stereotypes of people with conviction histories by asking employers to choose their best candidates based on job skills and qualifications, not past convictions,” the campaign’s website explains.

ED’s blog post also discussed its recently announced Second Chance Fellow program, which will “leverage lived experience and subject matter expertise to improve [the Department’s] policies and programs, enhancing [the Department’s] ability to implement and increase the impact of Pell reinstatement as well as other cross-cutting issues that impact students who are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.”

The post also mentioned ED’s updated version of its Beyond the Box guide, which provides “a focus on the importance of increasing access to higher education for system-involved individuals” and “recommendations to mitigate barriers to enrollment and ensure persistence and completion.”

The guide supported its position on banning the box, saying, “The criminal justice system has a disproportionate impact on people of color and people living in poverty,” noting that although White Americans make up 60 percent of the American population, they constitute only 38 percent of the incarcerated population.

However, Campus Reform previously reported on a University of Michigan study that found that Ban the Box efforts might actually increased racial discrimination against Black Americans seeking employment.

“[T]he UMich study found that such legislation actually leads to more discrimination, with African American applicants receiving fewer callbacks because ’employers may make assumptions about criminality based on the applicant’s race,'” reported Campus Reform.

The Department of Education has been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

Follow Austin Browne Twitter.


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