Coalition Application on Gender, Criminal Records

August 1, 2016

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success -- a group of dozens of leading colleges and universities -- has released its first application form. Most of the questions are similar to the information requested by most applications. But the release provides the first look at how the coalition is handling questions on gender and disciplinary or criminal records, two topics that have been the subject of much debate of late.

Under gender, the application gives a choice of male or female and then another box, "Gender (optional)," in which applicants can provide more information. Both the Common Application and the Universal College Application in April, in response to many years of pushing by advocates for transgender students, added new ways for applicants to indicate that the male/female binary is not a choice that corresponds with their identity.

The Education Department and others have been urging colleges to rethink whether they need to ask about disciplinary and criminal records of applicants, given concerns that such requests for information may discourage some students from applying and that many minority youth feel treated unfairly by law enforcement officials. The coalition application stresses that people who answer yes to any of the questions will be able to explain the circumstances, and that answering yes will not automatically lead applicants to be rejected. The relevant questions are:

  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation?
  • Are there any criminal charges currently pending against you?
  • Have you entered a plea of guilty, a plea of no contest, a plea of nolo contendere, an Alford plea to a criminal charge or a plea under a first offender act?
  • Do you currently have disciplinary charges (nonacademic or academic) pending against you from a high school, college, university or other postsecondary educational institution?
  • Have you ever been suspended or expelled for any reason from a high school, college, university or other postsecondary educational institution?

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