Maui News

Schatz Introduces Legislation to Increase Access to College

September 17, 2018, 4:50 PM HST
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U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Beyond the Box for Higher Education Act, new legislation that would encourage colleges and universities to remove criminal and juvenile justice questions from their admissions applications and give more Americans a chance to earn a higher education.

“Everyone deserves a fair chance to go to college and succeed,” Senator Schatz said. “This bill is about tearing down the barriers that keep people from pursuing a better life through higher education.”

Today, most colleges and universities ask criminal justice, juvenile justice, and/or school disciplinary questions in their admissions processes. Earlier this year, Senator Schatz led letters to the “Big Six” higher education associations and The Common Application asking them to remove criminal history questions from their admissions processes. As a result, the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the American Association of Community Colleges urged their members to remove these questions. And recently, The Common Application decided to remove criminal history questions from their form starting in August 2019. The bill would assist colleges and universities as they change their policies by providing assistance in the form of guidance and training.

“Requiring prospective college students to answer application questions about old criminal or juvenile records is an unnecessary barrier to educational pursuits. We must allow formerly incarcerated individuals to rebuild and move forward with their lives, and a college education can be an important step in that journey. I’m proud to join Senators Schatz and Booker on this bill and help clear this roadblock,”Senator Durbin said.

About 70 million Americans have some type of criminal record. That record, which shows up on all routine background checks, makes it more difficult for those individuals to go to college, find a good-paying job and rebuild their lives. Studies have shown that application rejection rates for individuals with convictions can be as high as 12 to 13 percentage points more than for those without. And many with a criminal background fail to complete their application once they reach the criminal history question, knowing responding to the questions would greatly diminish their chance of admission.

In addition to Schatz, Durbin, and Booker, original cosponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

 “There are still far too many barriers to a high quality higher education, especially for students who have been impacted by the justice system. The Beyond the Box Act would reduce some of these unnecessary barriers, particularly for low-income students and students of color who are disproportionately impacted.  We’re proud to stand with Sen. Schatz as we work toward a more equitable and just higher education for all students,” said Wil Del Pilar, Vice President of Higher Education at The Education Trust.

The Schatz legislation is supported by more than 20 organizations including The Education Trust, Institute for Higher Education Policy, National Association for College Admission Counseling, and NAACP.

 For a PDF copy of the bill, click here.

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