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Monday, July 24, 2017
Louisiana Passes Law to “Ban the Box” from College Applications
In the spring of 2016, the U.S. Department of Education issued a sweeping call to colleges and universities across the nation, urging them to remove application questions regarding students' criminal histories. Such inquiries, they argued, tended to discourage otherwise qualified candidates from applying. Perhaps surprisingly, people listened.

In a report entitled "Ban the Box", the Department of Education outlined the many reasons why criminal history questions on college applications serve as a barrier to access. Between 70 and 100 million Americans have criminal records. Higher education is key to long-term rehabilitation, and some studies have shown that disclosures of criminal history have done relatively little to improve campus safety.

Last week, in a unanimous vote on the House floor, Louisiana State banned such questions on all state university applications. The bill received enthusiastic bipartisan support from lawmakers who appreciate the importance of higher education in long-term success and rehabilitation. Louisiana has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. The prohibition is not extended to private institutions.

This practice is nothing new to the University of California, which has never required students to list criminal history on their initial applications. New York State's public school system does not require such disclosure, and other private universities, such as NYU, have followed suit. In 2016, the Common Application removed a question regarding past crimes.

Louisiana's new legislation makes it the first state to institute such a ban at a governmental level. University presidents reportedly requested exceptions for students with a history of stalking or sexual assault. FAFSA and other aid applications, as well as housing associations, may still be able to ask questions about an applicant's criminal history after a student has been accepted.

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