OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, and State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, hosted an interim study Tuesday focused on expanding higher education opportunities for Oklahomans released from prison.
‘Beyond the Box: Equity in Admissions in Oklahoma’ evaluated Oklahoma’s college admission processes that may potentially hinder individuals from receiving access to education.
“As we continue to reform our criminal justice system, we are going to move away from being the number one state for incarceration and become the number one post-incarcerated state,” Ranson said. “We know that education is the quickest way to upward economic mobility and stability, as well as breaking the recidivism cycle. This study is about assessing where we are now and where we can grow higher education to include this marginalized population.”
Each presenter provided firsthand accounts and empirical data that supports the removal of barriers like asking about criminal history on a college application. In many situations, applicants with even minor offenses will simply discontinue the application process upon being asked this question.
Speakers participating in the study included:
Patricia DeBolt - University of Tulsa
Shad Hagan - Langston University
Aleigha Mariott -- Oklahoma State University
Colleen McCarty -- Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform
Brooke Randels -- Higher education professional
Mike Reilly -- American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers
Dr. Judith Scott-Clayton -- Columbia Professor expert of ‘Ban the Box’
Damion Shade - Oklahoma Policy Institute
Kallie Watkins -- Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform
Provenzano pointed to the fact that the widely used “Common App” has already removed this question from their application, and the handful of universities in Oklahoma that utilize it have put in place post-application procedures that ensure safety standards remain.
“Campus safety is something that we cannot and will not compromise,” Provenzano said. “The data presented yesterday clearly highlights the fact that our campuses are actually pretty safe spaces. We learned today that what crimes are committed on a campus are by and large by first time offenders – those with no prior criminal history. It is time for us to consider as a state whether answering this question on a college application is serving its intended purpose, or if it is serving as a deterrent for those who have paid their debt to society and are seeking to better their lives through education.”