Gov. Northam signs higher education bill

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Northam joined Del. Lashrecse Aird, who represents the 63rd District in Virginia, to sign a higher education bill at Dinwiddie High School on Thursday.

This measure will prohibit public colleges and universities in Virginia from asking about an individual’s criminal record during the application process.

The new law also prohibits colleges and universities from denying admission based on criminal history.

“About a third of Virginians have some type of criminal record,” Northam said. “When people check that box, a lot of times they just say, ‘well, I know this is not going to work out for me’ and they just give up.”

Northam says these public colleges and universities can ask about criminal history later in the process if they so choose. The bill also says if an institution determines a person’s criminal history will pose a threat to their community, they can withdraw their offer.

Aird represents Dinwiddie County and says she wanted students to witness this bill signing.

“This is about students,” she said. “This is about them and ensuring that they have equal and fair access.”

Aird says when colleges and universities ask for an applicant’s criminal history, it goes beyond convictions.

“They were considering traffic infractions, speeding tickets, parking tickets, all types of incidents,” she said. “You would have had to check the criminal history box on your college application and it would be weighed the very same as an actual conviction.”

Aird believes this bill will remove barriers for those wanting to continue their education.

“We are removing any fear that individuals who are seeking that opportunity might have if they have made a mistake in the past,” she said.

The bill does not apply to the Virginia Military Institute and law schools.

It will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2022.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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