Colleges starting to check applicants’ backgrounds

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It’s miserable when you become buddies with your wing-mates and then one of them decides to steal your textbook, especially when you know that that guy doesn’t even do his homework.

A new website hopes to prevent this from happening at universities across the nation. offers a no-cost way for universities to check on a prospective student’s criminal history when deciding whether or not that applicant is right for their university.

“Nationally, more than 1 in 29 college students have a criminal past and knowing about this will help your educational institution avoid issues caused by students with a criminal background,” said Dennis Haws, the marketing director for, in a press release.

92 percent of jobs perform background screenings on their prospective employees, while only five percent of universities do so with their applicants, according to the press release.

“I think a lot of it comes down to just sheer volume,” said Dean of Admissions Robert Blust.  “For example, (Marquette) had 19,000 applications last year with a deadline of December 1st, and we had to get answers out by mid January. … What we really rely on is recommendations from high schools.”

In the wake of situations like the Virginia Tech massacre where Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 of his fellow classmates before killing himself, universities may be more inclined to perform these background checks, Haws said.

Cho, prior to these shootings, had been accused of stalking two female students and was diagnosed with a mental illness.

Such disasters are exactly what is designed to prevent, according to Haws.

However, some people disagree with keeping students with criminal records out of college and believe keeping every criminal out of college may perpetuate the poverty cycle by encouraging them to continue to act criminally in order to make ends meet.

“I agree with background checks,” said Sean Templeman, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences.  “But I also believe in second chances.”

Marquette applicants have to indicate whether or not they have criminal records on the application, but this does not prevent them from being accepted.

Blust explained that anyone who applies to Marquette and has a criminal record has their application discussed by a committee including admissions and residence life to make sure they all feel comfortable letting that student attend before notifying him or her of their acceptance.

“Anyone who checks yes (to having committed a felony) on the application goes through a pretty extensive process,” Blust said.  “Very few apps every year go through that category.  We want to do (our) due diligence because we want to keep our students and campus safe.”

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