White House Urges Colleges To Reconsider How They View Criminal History Of Applicants Via The Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge

Essel Pratt

With a focus on collegiate education, the Obama administration announced a program that urges colleges in the United States to reconsider an applicant’s criminal background check as a deciding factor in whether an individual is accepted or not.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House’s announcement hopes to allow minor offenses to be overlooked so that individuals that were previously labeled as criminals can move on from their misdeeds and strive for a higher education that will place them in a better environment where their skills can be utilized in a positive manner rather than be cast aside, where their past may reemerge into their lives and instigate further criminal activity.

The initiative is called the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge. The goal of the pledge is to allow individuals that have been impacted by the criminal justice system an opportunity to move beyond their past.

“This call to action represents a targeted effort to convene leaders, identify effective strategies, and work together to accomplish the shared goal of creating a stronger and broader set of opportunities for people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.”

Currently, 25 colleges have signed the pledge and will reevaluate their admissions process to determine which criminal activities they will forgive during the application process.

Ancilla College signed the pledge, according to the South Bend Tribune, and hopes the acceptance into higher education will be a significant step into rehabilitation and allow the individuals with criminal records to realize that they can move beyond their past and onto better opportunities. Ancilla’s president, Ken Zirkle, is excited at the possibility for creating opportunities for those with a criminal history.

“Ancilla is honored to join effort to create more opportunities for education and training to people starting over again after incarceration.”

Zirkle continued to state that criminal records are often a hindrance to higher education. Many of the individuals might have been convicted as teens, yet still have a blemish remaining on their criminal records.

“It’s part of our mission to serve the community, everyone in our community, and provide an opportunity for everyone to earn a college education.”

President Obama spoke out about the pledge, asking colleges to sign it and show their commitment to educating everyone, not just those with squeaky clean records.

“Americans who’ve paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”

The pledge does not limit the possibility for higher education to only those that have served their time, but allows for an extension into correctional facilities as well. Cornell University has stated that some of their instructors are being dispatched into area prisons to give the residents a head start. Some of those criminals that were released from prison have found their way into admission to the college.

The Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge offers multiple ways in which colleges and universities can welcome criminals into their facilities and guide them toward success. However, it is not limited to only the suggestions listed within, but encourages institutions of higher education to “Ban the Box” and discover new ideas that will guide those with criminal histories toward a higher education.

The opportunity to earn a higher education is a great privilege in the Unites States. However, the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge does not address the individual’s opportunity to gain employment after graduation and how the criminal history will impact that decision.

[Photo via Orhan Cam/Shutterstock]