College campus discrimination against applicants convicted of a felony
The Marshall Project
The Obstacle Course (“The country’s largest state university system says it doesn’t discriminate against former prison inmates. Applicants say otherwise.”)
As of 2018, students who apply to a two-year or four-year college within the State University System of New York will no longer have to disclose whether they have been convicted of a felony.
SUNY officials, who oversee the nation’s largest public university system, voted on Wednesday to “ban the box” on student applications that asks about criminal history. An internal memo outlining SUNY’s decision credited a 2015 analysis that found nearly two-thirds of applicants who disclosed having a felony record had dropped out of the application process.
When he checked the box on the New Paltz application owning up to his felony record, the demands began. The school wanted letters from the prison psychologist, the prison superintendent and his parole officer, and his full criminal record. Cadwallader replied that Mt. McGregor did not have a psychologist and that he never interacted with the superintendent. He submitted letters from his current psychologist, psychiatrist and parole officer, and braced for the screening committee. There, he says, he was grilled about his record — including arrests for misdemeanors and for charges that had been dismissed.
According to a forthcoming analysis of state records by the Center for Community Alternatives, an advocacy group that lobbies for alternatives to incarceration, about three out of five applicants with felony records drop out between application and admission, discouraged from pursuing an education that might equip them for a crime-free future. Among applicants without criminal records, the dropout rate is only about one in five, according to the report, believed to be the first such study of a major public university system.