Thanks to a landmark policy change, your son or daughter could be sitting next to a convicted felon.

The State University of New York Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to remove questions about prior felony convictions from their general college applications.

SUNY’s previous policy required applicants to declare their prior felony convictions on their college applications. Now, students will be asked to declare any prior felonies only after being admitted to the college and only when seeking campus housing or participation in clinical or field experiences, internships, or study abroad programs.

The decision follows a national "Ban the Box" movement which wants prior felony convictions to not play a factor in admitting a student.

The change affects 64 colleges across the state and makes SUNY the first university system in the country to reverse their decision to screen criminal history.

"Today’s policy revision is a milestone achievement for SUNY, one that positions our university system as a leader in what has become a national movement to expand access and educational opportunity for individuals with a felony history," SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher stated. "Thank you to the many students, faculty, and staff across SUNY whose critical feedback led to today’s resolution."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo applauded the decision.

“Research shows that a majority of candidates who are asked to disclose prior felony convictions on SUNY admissions applications do not complete the process. This has a particularly negative impact on applicants of color as a result of racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” he said. “ I directed SUNY leadership to carefully examine this issue, because re-entry reform is a priority for my administration. We must help individuals who have served their time to move past their mistakes.”

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