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May 09, 2016

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said on Monday that inquiries into applicants’ criminal past create a chilling effect for people of color, who have been charged with a disproportionate number of the crimes.

The U.S. Department of Education is urging colleges and universities to limit their inquiries into applicants’ criminal records. The Obama administration wants colleges to support second chances.

On Monday, the Department released a report, Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice-Involved Individuals, which recommends colleges lower barriers for applicants with prior convictions.

Currently, an estimated two thirds of U.S. colleges and universities ask prospective students if they have a criminal background. The goal, according to those institutions, is to keep campuses safe.

But the Obama administration says those inquiries discourage millions of Americans from even applying to college.

“We believe in second chances and we believe in fairness,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a statement, adding that the requirement creates a chilling effect for people of color who have been charged with a disproportionate number of the crimes.

The organization that runs the Common Application is researching whether criminal history has any impact on admissions and the Education Department is encouraging colleges to adopt a new approach that delays such inquiries until an initial decision is made.

Related: Could Community College Be The Key To Transforming A Troubled Neighborhood

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