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Educational doors open for formerly incarcerated people.

In August, the Common Application—a uniform online application form used by more than 800 colleges and universities—announced to its member institutions that it will no longer ask applicants about prior criminal history, reversing its position of just one year earlier.Common Application, “Change to Criminal History Question for 2019-2010 Application Year,” press release (Madison, WI: Common Application, August 19, 2018); and Scott Jaschik, “Common App Drops Criminal History Question,” Inside Higher Ed, August 12, 2018. More than one million students use the Common Application each year.Wong, “The Common App Will Stop Asking About Students’ Criminal Histories,” 2018.

In its announcement, the nonprofit organization that manages the Common Application stated that it “is committed to advancing access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process.”Common Application, “Change to Criminal History Question,” 2018. Individual colleges that use the Common Application may still choose to ask applicants supplemental questions about their criminal backgrounds, and the application still includes questions about disciplinary records.Jaschik, “Common App Drops Criminal History Question,” 2018. The change takes effect in the 2019–2020 application.Common Application, “Change to Criminal History Question,” 2018.

Access to postsecondary education expanded elsewhere as well. In September, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) selected the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to spearhead a consortium to support expanding access to postsecondary education to people currently and formerly imprisoned in the state.Vera Institute of Justice, “Vera Awards $250,000 Grant to Establish Consortium in Massachusetts to Support Postsecondary Education in Prison,” press release (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, September 5, 2018). To boost its efforts, MIT is receiving $250,000, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation via Vera, to establish the consortium—comprising two- and four-year public and private colleges, state and local corrections agencies, and other organizations that serve currently and formerly incarcerated people—as it develops a postsecondary education pipeline in Massachusetts prisons.Vera Institute of Justice, “Vera Awards $250,000 Grant to Establish Consortium in Massachusetts to Support Postsecondary Education in Prison,” press release (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, September 5, 2018).