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Denver, CO March 1, 2019 – Yesterday, Senators Robert Rodriguez (D-Denver) and Jack Tate (R-Centennial) introduced the Ensuring Access to Higher Education Act. SB19-170 would restrict the ability of Colorado state institutions of higher learning in Colorado from inquiring about criminal history or disciplinary history during the admissions process.
“Colorado’s Constitution outlines the state’s duty to provide access to higher education. The applicants who would benefit most from a college degree are facing unnecessary roadblocks, despite their demonstrated academic potential,” says Senator Robert Rodriguez, who works with criminal offenders outside of his job in the legislature. A study by the Emory University Department of Economics found that a bachelor’s degree reduces recidivism to 5.6%.
“K-12 suspensions and expulsions are still disproportionately affecting kids of color, students in poverty, and LGBTQ youth,” adds Rodriguez. “This bill also reduces the barriers some of our students are facing through no fault of their own.” The New York-based Center for Community Alternatives found that three out of four colleges inquire about an applicant’s disciplinary history, and 89% use that information to make admissions decisions.
State colleges and universities would still be able to ask about an applicant’s criminal history or school disciplinary history if it relates to sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. If an otherwise qualified applicant is flagged because they meet one of those criteria, they are still entitled to a review and appeals process.
“This protects both the applicant and the institution of higher learning,” says Senator Jack Tate, a businessman from Arapahoe County. “A person should have a reasonable expectation to privacy, and applicants who made serious mistakes in the past will still have an opportunity to speak about their case.”
“Education is the most powerful tool to combat recidivism and to put Coloradans on a path of personal responsibility and prosperity. It is my hope that other states will follow our example of not unnecessarily holding back higher education from those who seek a better life path. This is not only smart public policy, but it’s the compassionate and just thing to do.”