U of M Stops Screening Prospective Students For Felonies

Photo credit: University of Minnesota Foundation

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Starting in Fall 2018, The University of Minnesota will stop screening prospective students for felonies in their applications to the school.  This decision was made after pressure from student leaders and the Obama administration.

Vice provost of the U of M, Bob McMaster told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that admission questions about criminal history discourages people from completing their application and has no effect on campus safety.

McMaster said that a very low number of applicants check the box and that those who do typically are admitted anyway after a committee considers whether the person represents a threat.

“There’s no real evidence, when you look at this nationally, that when felons are admitted to the campus that there’s any kind of threat to the campus itself,” McMaster said to the Pioneer Press.

Although the U of M will drop the felony question, they will still ask prospective students if they have ever been convicted of sex offenses or if they have been disciplined by previous schools for academic dishonesty.  Student housing applications will continue to inquire about a student’s criminal history.

Education Secretary John King said earlier this year that such questions discourage approximately 70 million Americans with criminal histories from applying to college, especially disadvantaged African-Americans, who he said are convicted of crimes at comparatively high rates than those who are not black. King made this announcement at UCLA, part of the University of California system, which does not inquire about criminal justice involvement on its admissions applications.

“We believe in second chances and we believe in fairness,” King said at UCLA, “The college admissions process shouldn’t serve as a roadblock to opportunity, but should serve as a gateway to unlocking untapped potential of students.”

Donna Azarian