Common Application Removes Question About Criminal Justice

College & Community Fellowship
For Immediate Release: August 9, 2018
Contact: Lori Rodriguez,, or (646) 380-7771

New York, NY – On Tuesday, in an unexpected yet laudable move, the Common Application dropped the question of criminal justice involvement from its application. Used by more than 700 colleges and universities around the world, the Common App is the country’s most widely used college application. This move comes after a more than 10-year campaign to “Ban the Box” led by a coalition of community activists and organizations, and elected officials. The Common Application’s decision to ban the box will have tremendously positive effects for college applicants with justice histories, and for colleges that benefit from those students’ presence.

The criminal history question is not asked in ways that meaningfully improve campus safety, and frequently serves only to deter the justice-involved from seeking higher education upon release. A study conducted by the EIO (Education from the Inside Out) Coalition found that for every student rejected by SUNY admissions committees because of a felony conviction, 15 did not complete their applications due to the unwelcoming experience of facing the checkbox. Banning the box is a good first step, but the institutions that still ask the question have more work to do: most institutions have no set procedure for following up with applicants, resulting in arbitrary admissions practices like requesting access to legally sealed rap sheets and other unpredictable, ineffective criteria. A Center for Community Alternatives study found that less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information. We hope that this decision by the College Board signals a broad move by colleges to using evidence-based practices for dealing with issues of campus safety.

Statement from Vivian Nixon, formerly incarcerated receiver of college reentry services, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship:
“Upon my release from the criminal justice system, I found myself forced to constantly explain my mistakes as I faced questions about my criminal history on job, housing, and even college admissions applications. These checkboxes asking me to self-disclose weren’t just an annoyance – they threatened to derail my success and keep me from being the engaged citizen I longed to be. Education is a human right and certain communities in our society do not have access to the same quality of education that I believe every American deserves. We congratulate the College Board for finally implementing Obama-era guidance from the Department of Education and banning the box, and look forward to a future where justice and safety are evidence-based, rather than stigma-driven.”

College & Community Fellowship (CCF) is a non-profit dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated women earn their college degrees as a key strategy to successful reentry. CCF mentors students until graduation day, providing academic support, financial coaching, and other opportunities to build social capital. We approach systemic change through our national advocacy and technical assistance programs.

College & Community Fellowship

Our Mission

College & Community Fellowship (CCF) is a nonprofit dedicated to helping women with criminal convictions earn college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. We advocate for equity and opportunity for the communities we serve.

CCF supports students until graduation day and beyond, providing academic support, career coaching, financial development, and much more. We approach systemic change through our national advocacy and technical assistance programs.