University to stop screening future students for felonies

Published 9:25 am Monday, December 12, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota will not ask prospective students about felony convictions starting in fall 2018 after pressure from student leaders and the Obama administration.

Vice Provost Bob McMaster said asking future students about their criminal history can discourage them from finishing their application.

He said “a very low number” of applicants check the box and those who do are usually admitted after a committee decides whether the prospective student would pose a threat.

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“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,” he said.

Education Secretary John King said the criminal history question poses a disadvantage to African-Americans, who are convicted of crimes at a higher rate than people who aren’t black.

The university will continue to ask prospective students on applications if they have been convicted of sex offenses or if a previous school has punished them for academic dishonesty, The St. Paul Pioneer Press ( reported. UMN’s student housing applications will also inquire about criminal history.

The university has also joined Common App, which is used by 700 universities to field new and transfer student applications. The app asks all prospective students of convictions and pending charges for misdemeanor and felony crimes.

A spokeswoman for Common App said universities can choose to not receive the answers to the questions, but a university can’t prevent students interested in their school from being presented with the question.