Should College Applications Include Criminal Background Checks?

You apply to college and fill out an application accordingly. They ask you questions regarding your criminal past, including convictions of felonies and misdemeanors. If you’ve ever filled out a job application before, this seems like a standard procedure. But, why should your criminal background matter if you attend college – shouldn’t everyone get a chance to learn?

According to a recent news article, criminal background checks are part of college applications for 60 percent of the schools out there, but what counts as a background check and how these results are interpreted vary with each school – no system is in place. According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, this percentage of schools consider a student’s background according to the basic survey with an application to asking students and their parents to pay for a proper background check.

The Common Application asks students filling it out if they have any convictions of felonies or misdemeanors and about any academic or behavioral misconduct. What if a student, who had once been sent to juvenile court for truancy or assault, says, “No”? Would the school investigate the student’s statement or simply take his or her word?

Another factor in the admissions process is interpreting the results. Admissions personnel don’t run a background check company and only 38 percent have training to interpret criminal records. Schools, however, often associate a student with a criminal past with a greater likelihood of dropping out, expulsion, or causing trouble on campus.

A definite answer to this issue doesn’t exist, however. If background checks are to hold a place in college admissions, the personnel evaluating them need better training and to come up with a system for evaluating them. Who, with a criminal background, gets admitted and who doesn’t?