This editorial from the New York Times gets an A for the admirable intention to help reforming criminals obtain a college education—which will help in their rehabilitation as I learned from personal and professional experience—but an F in calling for not revealing criminal record information as part of the information base college administrators are able to examine prior to making the decision to acceptance.

Public safety is enhanced through public access to criminal justice information and degraded when that information is withheld.

An excerpt.

There is a widely overlooked obstacle to higher education that confronts at least 70 million Americans who have criminal records — often for relatively trivial transgressions in the distant past. Many colleges ask applicants about criminal convictions before deciding on their suitability as students. And since criminal records are often inaccurate and misleading, these screening systems are inherently unfair.

Bills pending in both houses of the New York State Legislature would require colleges to judge an applicant on academic merit and other normal criteria and ask about run-ins with the law later.

The need to change the way criminal records are weighed in college admissions was underscored in a 2010 study by the Center for Community Alternatives, a nonprofit organization. The study, which involved surveys of 273 colleges, found that two-thirds of them collected criminal conviction information on applicants. Less than half the schools that used the information in making admissions decisions have written policies and only 40 percent train the staff in how to interpret it.

The practice of collecting criminal information became widespread at colleges in 2006. But some schools hold even minor offenses like alcohol convictions and juvenile offenses against students. One problem is that the rap sheets colleges often look at can contain youthful offenses that have been sealed by the courts and should never be used in this way. Students who manage to duck these questions at the community college level encounter them later when they try to enroll in four-year colleges or apply for master’s degree or doctoral programs. Of course, many young people with criminal records are discouraged by the ordeal and give up on college altogether.

Retrieved September 22, 2014 from