The trustees of the State University of New York voted on Wednesday to completely remove long-standing questions about past felony convictions from its general application starting with the fall 2018 admissions cycle, a decision that could have ripple effects across academia. The change affects 64 colleges in the statewide system that enrolls 442,000 students each year and received 310,000 applications for the 2015 academic year.
“This is a historic moment because SUNY is the first university system in the country to reverse its decision to screen for criminal history and remove the question from its admissions application,” said Emily NaPier, the director of justice strategies at Center for Community Alternatives, which has been petitioning SUNY to make this change for about a decade. “[This] will open the doors for thousands of qualified applicants around the state who previously would have been deterred by the inquiry into their past.”
SUNY, the largest public university system in the country, joins the ranks of 61 public and private colleges and universities that have committed to phasing out questions advocates believe discourage prospective candidates with criminal records from even applying to schools. But once enrolled, students could be asked about their criminal histories while applying for campus housing or for entry into specialized academic or training programs.