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CCAC to weigh students' run-in with law

| Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, 10:57 p.m.

Community College of Allegheny County will require applicants and current students to disclose any felony convictions, charges for violent crimes and discipline by other schools under a policy that the college's board adopted Thursday.

CCAC remains an “open-enrollment” institution, but the policy gives the school the right to defer or place conditions on a student's admission. CCAC can suspend, dismiss or deny admission to anyone it determines could endanger the campus.

“CCAC's mission (is) to be open and accessible to all citizens of Allegheny County, even those who may have made a mistake,” said Fred Thieman, vice chair of the board. “Nevertheless, we understand the need for a policy to protect students, faculty and staff.”

Current students who have a felony conviction or who are charged with violent crimes would have to inform the dean of student development for their campus in writing.

The college reserves the right to deny or suspend admission if a student doesn't disclose or has falsified his or her criminal history, or if that student has parole requirements that the school can't reasonably accommodate.

About 66 percent of schools responding to a 2010 survey by the Center for Community Alternatives and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers said they collected information about applicants' criminal histories, but only 55 percent said they applied it in making admissions. Many of those institutions had staff not typically involved in admissions — such as academic deans, security staff and legal counsel — review applications from people with convictions.

The nonprofit Center for Community Alternatives advises against requiring criminal-history disclosures, noting in the same study that more people have convictions and that the severity of the charges doesn't always reflect the seriousness of the crime. It also noted that such policies might disproportionately affect minorities and discourage applicants.

Tony DiTommaso, CCAC's vice president for compliance and legal affairs, said the change wasn't made in response to any particular incident and was part of a regular re-examination of CCAC's policies. The board approved the policy by a unanimous vote.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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