Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Application Attrition

Center for Community Alternatives

(March 2015)
Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Application Attrition

With this study and report, the Center for Community Alternatives builds upon what was revealed in their 2010 study, The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered (PDF). The Reconsidered study illuminated that a growing number of colleges and universities are asking about criminal history information during the application process: two-thirds of the colleges and universities we surveyed reported that they do so. Yet, as the center discussed in the Reconsidered study, there is no empirical evidence to indicate that criminal history screening makes college campuses any safer.

This study helps to explain how the use of the criminal history box on college applications and the supplemental requirements and procedures that follow create barriers to higher education for otherwise qualifed applicants. In this study, which focuses on the State University of New York (SUNY), the center  found that almost two out of every three applicants who disclosed a felony conviction were denied access to higher education, not because of a purposeful denial of their application but because they were driven out of the application process. The study also explores how the stigmatizing and daunting impact of the supplemental procedures imposed on applicants who disclose a felony conviction contribute to this attrition.