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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: March 8, 2023 02:58 PM
From: Representative Morgan Cephas and Rep. Jason Ortitay
To: All House members
Subject: Ban-the-Box on Applications to Pennsylvania Public Colleges and Universities
Many colleges and universities have a criminal history box to check-off on their applications for acceptance to their institutions, which can cause students with a criminal history to be discouraged before they have even begun the process. The application process for such students may involve needing to provide multiple forms of information relating to their criminal record, which can be hugely cumbersome and burdensome and, ultimately, so discouraging that a majority of promising, talented young people lose hope and fail to complete the application process altogether. For example, a recent study found that two-thirds of State University of New York (SUNY) applicants with a felony conviction failed to complete the application process, compared to a rate of 21 percent for all applicants. 
Students applying to institutions of higher education who may have a criminal record of some type are often at a disadvantage when seeking to better their lives and become full-time contributing members of society. Further, such individuals, if they do become students, are faced with many challenges in attempting to make it to the finish line by completing their degree and graduating. Interestingly, research shows that, when students with a criminal history enroll at college, there is no direct correlation between a student’s criminal background and any increase in criminal activity. 
With this in mind, our legislation would “ban-the-box” on applications to any public college or university in Pennsylvania. The institution could not inquire about a student’s criminal history, with the exception of certain criminal offenses, on the initial application or at any other time during the admissions process prior to the institution’s decision to accept a student for admission. However, after a student has been accepted, the university may make such inquiries for the purpose of offering supportive counseling and services, and for making decisions relative to the student’s participation in campus life and determining if the institution will limit such participation. 
We need to eliminate the barriers for those young people who are seeking to better their lives and continue their education. Please join us in helping to make this possible by co-sponsoring this legislation.