Illinois lawmakers today rejected legislation that could have made it easier for former felons to apply for college. Popularly known as a “ban the box” bill, it would have prevented colleges from asking about criminal history on basic application forms.
Once a student is admitted, colleges would still be allowed to consider criminal history for housing and participation in campus activities.
But State Rep. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore), said it was still dangerous.
“We cannot put the safety of our 17- and 18-year-old children in co-habitational dorms at risk the first time they’re away from home, by allowing convicted felons to reside with them,” he said.
The question comes up on college application forms in a little box that an applicant is supposed to check if they have any criminal history. For some people, just the question is enough to dissuade them from even applying.
Later, at an unrelated event, Gov. J.B. Pritzker voiced his disappointment in the House vote, which failed to allow the bill to move on to the Senate for further debate.
“For some people, it may seem like why would you give somebody that opportunity. For me, I think education is a ticket out of the situation that got them in prison in the first place,” he said.
Pritzker said people who have done their time shouldn’t be punished for the rest of their lives.
A similar bill cleared the House last year, and was approved by a Senate committee, but was never called for a vote on the Senate floor.