Should Criminal Records Be on College Applications?

Everyone remembers the process of applying to colleges. Mostly basic questions fill up the pages until you get to the one that asks, “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a felony?”

The answer to this could make or break someone’s college future. Three New York colleges have removed it from their application. However, Manhattan College is not one of them. But should it be?

Out of the three, St. John’s University is significant due to its size. The school has 20,000 students on four different campuses in New York state. The other two schools are Five Towns College and Dowling College, both located on Long Island.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement: “An arrest or police stop that did not result in a conviction, or a criminal record that was sealed or expunged, should not – indeed must not – be a standard question on a college application. Such a question can serve only to discourage New Yorkers from seeking a higher education.”

The colleges have agreed to work with an advocacy group called the Center for Community Alternatives, led by Schneiderman, to address these points of punishment and discrimination. These schools are the only three out of the 70 that were reviewed by the state attorney’s office.

Should prospective college students be punished for something that happened in high school? If it is a case of something more serious, then that is a different story. However, most of the time it is minor and should not affect the future of someone who wants to achieve more in his or her life.

The Center for Community Alternatives and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers worked together on a 59 question survey to explore the history of criminal records on college applications. Two hundred and seventy-three college institutions responded. The majority, 66 percent, collected information from their applicants’ criminal records, but not all of them let it determine the application process.

The report states that private four-year schools are more likely to collect the information rather than two-year public schools. The other 38 percent do not collect any criminal record information and have not reported their campuses to be less safe than others.

MC is proud to be a Lasallian community. One of our major points, which are stated on our website, is to have respect for all people.

We honor and respect the dignity of all individuals. Our mission of service, on and off campus, stems from the belief that all human beings deserve basic dignity. We eagerly explore new communities and different ways of thinking and being in order to cultivate a truly global perspective,” according to the MC website.

If MC is “diverse in backgrounds, interests, talents, beliefs and opinions,” then shouldn’t we accept students and give those who need one a second chance? One mistake should not mess up the rest of a student’s future, especially one who wants and works toward getting into a college.

Another point highlighted on the college’s website is our inclusive community. It repeats our welcoming of diversity and a lively community. “Manhattan College is passionately committed to policies of non-discrimination and we actively encourage an open-minded staff and student body. We’re committed to civil rights and freedom of expression for all people.”

With Lasallian values being an important factor at our school, it would be best for Manhattan College to also remove the criminal record question from our application. It will prove that we are in fact Lasallian and that we welcome diverse students to our school.