Description of the screening practices involving college and university applicants with prior criminal convictions
The purpose of this study was to describe college and university screening practices involving applicants with prior criminal convictions. The study also examined the institutional reasons to screen or not screen for prior criminal convictions and determined if the practice varied by institutional demographics. The study also focused on how the information was obtained and what was done with the information once collected. Finally, the study examined what factors influenced the admission decision if a student acknowledged a history of prior criminal convictions.
This study employed a survey research design which described and explored the current admission practices of postsecondary institutions involving applicants with prior criminal convictions. An electronic survey instrument was used to collect data that facilitated the examination of institutional practices through a national study of colleges and universities. The target population for this study consisted of 933 designated chief admission officers (or next ranking admission professionals) who were also members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Each institution surveyed represented a United States college or university that was regionally accredited and either two-year or four-year and either public or private.
Some of the major findings included: (a) the majority of public and private institutions (66.7%) screened for information from prospective students about prior criminal convictions; (b) screening practices were in effect for more than five years for 50.5% of the institutions; (c) more four-year institutions (70.9%) screened than two-year (38.2%) institutions; (d) at least 50% or more of all institutions in each region of the country screened applicants for prior criminal convictions; (e) the more selective the institution, the more likely they were to screen applicants for prior criminal convictions, and the more "open" the admission, the less likely they were to screen applicants; (f) the smaller the enrollment of the institution, the more likely they were to screen their applicants; (g) the institutions that did screen applicants for prior criminal convictions did so primarily because of concerns for campus safety; (h) the institutions that did not screen applicants for prior criminal convictions did so principally because of being advised not to by legal counsel or other authority.
With campus safety being such a paramount issue, institutional officials need to better understand their own practices, as well of those of similar institutions, regarding screening applicants with prior criminal convictions. College and university administrators should be able to use the findings from this study as a guide to examine their own institutional policies and procedures. They should find the practices of other colleges and universities valuable as they determine which approach they will take on their campuses. Each institution should also find it helpful to develop and fine-tune practices in order to fit state laws and/or institutional mission. Only by examining their own practices along with the rationale behind those practices, can an institution be confident in their administrative choices related to screening.
Based on the results of the study, institutions need to clearly articulate the rationale behind their decision to screen or not screen applicants for admission who have prior criminal convictions. Institutions should re-examine whether their screening practices are consistent with the mission of the university and their obligation to provide a safe learning environment for all students.
Colleges & universities;
0745: Higher education