BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Thousands of students apply to schools like the University at Buffalo every year. But school officials say those with a criminal background are facing a wall before they even walk through the door.
“They do want a second chance and they want a fresh start and they’re concerned whether it’s an employment application or the SUNY application it’s going to keep them from being able to get in,” said Sharon Nolan-Weiss, University at Buffalo Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Executive Director.
A study by the Center for Community Alternatives found that more than 2,900 applicants disclose a felony each year throughout SUNY schools and more than 1,800 do not complete the application process.
“Many individuals when they see that they have to indicate on the admissions they assume college is not for me and so therefore that door is closed,” said Kate Conway-Turner, Buffalo State College President.
That’s why the SUNY board of trustees agreed to nix the felony conviction question from students applications altogether.
“It’s part of a nationwide trend and it’s also a trend in employment. Buffalo for example the city of Buffalo has a ban the box ordinance and based on that we removed the felony conviction question from our job applications in 2014,” said Nolan-Weiss.
The SUNY board of trustees policy does give schools the ability to review students status after admission for safety purposes. But school officials say they don’t want a criminal background to keep students from applying and say that removing the criminal background checkbox will also remove the stigma attached to it.
“We don’t want to put any additional hurdle they’ve paid the price for whatever they did and so we want to make sure that they also have the opportunity to education,” said Conway-Turner.