Three colleges in New York State have reached an agreement with the state's attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, to drop application questions on criminal records that Schneiderman and others said went too far, The New York Times reported. At St. John's University, the question read: “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a felony?” A statement from the attorney general said: “An arrest or police stop that did not result in a conviction, or a criminal record that was sealed or expunged, should not — indeed must not — be a standard question on a college application." The other colleges that agreed to drop similar questions are Dowling College and Five Towns College. The agreement with colleges says that they may consider a criminal record in evaluating an applicant if the record "indicates that the individual poses a threat to public safety or property, or if the convictions are relevant to some aspect of the academic program or student responsibilities.”
At some other campuses, asking questions about criminal records has been criticized by some student groups, although some colleges have also been criticized for not asking enough about applicants' criminal records. The Common Application poses the question in a way that would seem consistent with Schneiderman's criticisms. The Common Application question is: “Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime? Note that you are not required to answer 'yes' to this question, or provide an explanation, if the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed, erased, impounded, or otherwise ordered by a court to be kept confidential."
In an interview in The New Yorker, President Obama expressed support for affirmative action in higher education, and questioned how precisely a Supreme Court deadline for phasing out the consideration of race should be viewed. The article looks broadly at President Obama's influence on the federal court system, and touches on affirmative action toward the end of the piece. In a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the right of public colleges to, under certain circumstances, consider race in admissions, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that they should no longer be needed in 25 years. Justice O'Connor, since retired from the court, wrote the decision in 2003. Asked about that deadline, Obama told the magazine that Justice O’Connor would “be the first one to acknowledge that 25 years was sort of a ballpark figure in her mind.”
Generally, Obama signaled continued support for affirmative action. “If the University of Michigan or California decides that there is a value in making sure that folks with different experiences in a classroom will enhance the educational experience of the students, and they do it in a careful way,” the universities should be allowed to consider race and ethnicity, he said.
At the same time, however, he said that the best long-term solution to unequal opportunities in American society is improvement of the K-12 education system. “I understand, certainly sitting in this office, that probably the single most important thing I could do for poor black kids is to make sure that they’re getting a good K-through-12 education. And, if they’re coming out of high school well prepared, then they’ll be able to compete for university slots and jobs. And that has more to do with budgets and early-childhood education and stuff that needs to be legislated," Obama said.
Israel's universities will shift admissions policies so that one-third of students may be admitted without considering of their scores on a national psychometric exam, The Jerusalem Post reported. Instead, those students will be admitted solely based on achievement in high school. Education Minister Shai Piron explained the change this way. “Some view the psychometric exam as a tool suffering from cultural bias. The financial investment in preparation and the structure of parts of the exam may discriminate between students, and turn into a wall that prevents many students to enter the gates of academia.”
Duquesne University has announced that applicants to its McAnulty College of Liberal Arts will no longer be required to submit SAT or ACT scores. A statement from Paul-James Cukanna, associate provost for enrollment management, said: "Across the spectrum, in all geographic and socioeconomic areas, in urban, suburban and rural schools, both private and public, we have had solid applicants who are motivated and academically talented but don't perform as well as might be expected on standardized tests."
On "This Week,"Inside Higher Ed's free weekly news podcast, Cathy Davidson joined Editor Scott Jaschik and the moderator Casey Green to talk about why she left Duke University for the City University of New York and how her Futures Initiative may transform graduate and undergraduate education at the enormous public institution. In our other segment, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Harold Levy discusses its new effort to use technology to help low-income students better understand their college-going options. Sign up here to be notified of new "This Week" podcasts.
College admissions is already a high-stakes, daunting process. There are so many moving parts students have to deal with: essays, letters of recommendation, financial aid, interviews, standardized testing — not to mention keeping up with high school classes and activities.
In my previous role as a college counselor for Bottom Line (a college access and success program for first-generation, low-income students), I worked with a cohort of high school students from start to finish in their application process. I was there to answer questions, give responsible advice, help make college accessible, and ease the stress of the process. My students were often worried about making mistakes -- as evidenced by the countless frantic phone calls and emails I would receive -- and now I have to wonder if their biggest mistake was trusting that their applications would be reviewed fairly.
I asked several of the students I worked with what they made of the situation.
For Kimberlee Cruz, a student I counseled in high school and college, having to worry about the FAFSA position would have been a huge concern. “It would have stressed me out, to worry that my fifth choice could have given me terrible aid just because I didn’t list them first. What if I didn’t get into my first choice? Would that mean I would have no options with good aid?”
Financial aid was the most important part of the application process for Cruz, a junior at Worcester State University, as well as the part that was most confusing. “Regardless of the position, you’re interested in the school; otherwise, it wouldn’t be on your FAFSA.”
Most of the students I have worked with wouldn’t think twice about the order they listed colleges on the FAFSA. For some, sure, it was probably in the order of their preference, but for others, maybe the order was alphabetical, geographical, FAFSA code numerical (O.K., probably not that last one, but you get the idea).
And why should they think twice? There’s not any indication on FAFSA that the order matters or that it will be shared.
Daniel Figueiredo, another former student, was shocked to find out that some colleges use information in this manner. “I think it’s completely unethical. To infer something like preference based on a list, it’s sneaky and can really mess up someone’s future -- it shouldn’t be evaluated.”
Figueiredo, a senior at Worcester State, said that he applied to a few reach colleges at the last minute, institutions he wasn’t sure he could get into but wanted to try. “I thought, what the heck, I’ll do it. Maybe I had a chance, but I put them farther down on my FAFSA list since I added them to my list later than some more attainable schools. I did get waitlisted for two of them, and now I’m wondering if the FAFSA position played a role.”
What students should focus on with the FAFSA is having accurate information, having all their colleges added, and meeting all of the priority deadlines. Financial aid can be confusing enough for students and their families, and for many, the weight of their future completely rests on the aid packages that schools offer.
Throwing FAFSA position in the mix is another step for applicants to remember, another potential barrier to access. And I wonder, would an alphabetical or random order even make a difference, or would schools interpret the list as preferential anyway?
Maybe it’s just me, but a college taking its FAFSA position into consideration for admissions and aid decisions seems like a popularity contest. I know that colleges want to fill their classes, that admissions recruiters have goals to meet, that everyone wants the best and the brightest to want to attend their institution. But holding a FAFSA position against a student -- especially since many students don’t realize that something so arbitrary could greatly affect them -- seems in direct opposition to the ultimate goal of getting students to attend and graduate from college.
If FAFSA continues to share this information, colleges engaging in this practice really need to reconsider their position on student access and success. And students thinking about applying to these institutions might want to reconsider as well.
Ali Lincoln is a project director for TVP Communications, a national public relations agency with expertise in higher education.
Brevard College, in North Carolina, has become the latest institution to stop requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. A statement from President David C. Joyce said: “Numbers rarely tell a student’s whole story, and we believe this new holistic approach will open our doors even wider to talented and deserving students who will thrive in Brevard’s exceptional academic atmosphere.”
Submitted by Paul Fain on October 14, 2014 - 3:00am
The National Student Clearinghouse on Tuesday released a broad data set on students' transition from high school to college. The nonprofit group's report, which is the second annual installment, tracked 3.5 million students from public and private high schools over four years. It found that students from low-income high schools were more likely to attend community colleges, with almost half of that group's college enrollment being in the two-year sector.