Ban Misdemeanor Questions on College Applications

Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Eliminate any questions about minor applicant involvement in the justice system on college application forms.

Colleges are being pressured to removed questions about low-level involvement in the criminal justice system from application forms by the U.S. Department of Education. Questions forcing applicants to disclose any contact with this system, even if it’s unjustified and the applicant was completely innocent, put people of color at an unfair disadvantage due to the fact that they’re disproportionately targeted by police.

There has already been a movement to “ban the box” on job applications in order to give people convicted of misdemeanors a fighting chance at getting back on their feet. It also seems completely unfair for those who have merely been arrested and then released to be barred from getting a good education, as clearly an affirmative answer to a question like that would put an applicant at a disadvantage.

There’s still a significant racial gap in people seeking and getting higher education, and this contributes to the racial wealth gap and the cycles of poverty that many people of color are still trapped in. A significant part of ending this means ending prejudice against anybody who comes into contact with a clearly racist justice system. Sign our petition to urge President Obama to put further pressure on U.S. colleges to eliminate questions about misdemeanor charges and convictions from applications.


Dear President Obama,

Questions that are standard on most college applications about contact with the criminal justice system are keeping people of color from getting a higher education at the same rate as white people. Many colleges require applicants to disclose if they’ve even been arrested, even if it was a wrongful arrest and the applicant was completely innocent.

This is unfortunate considering the fact that there’s still an considerable racial gap in the people getting a college education, which these days is very necessary in order to get a job with a living wage. This contributes to the racial wealth gap and disproportionate risks of poverty. Due to this, the Department of Education is recommending that all colleges remove these questions from applications.

Nobody deserves to be kept out of college just because they’ve been arrested or convicted of a minor charge. This is an even bigger problem considering that people of color are disproportionately targeted by police and arrested and convicted for minor offenses such as drug possession. Please use your position of power to further urge colleges in the U.S. to stop asking questions about minor contact with the justice system.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ardfern

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