Potential Students May Need to Pass Criminal Background Check during UW Admissions Process

By Michael Klazema on 3/7/2013

After discovering that they had admitted Level II and Level III sex offenders, the University of Washington (UW) officials are now debating whether they should include criminal background checks on their college applications. Vice provost of UW Eric Godfrey states, “We have a high obligation to ensure that this campus is safe.” If UW does include criminal background questions on its application, it will join around 64 percent of other schools in the nation.

Godfrey notes that the disclosure of a criminal past will not automatically disqualify an applicant from being granted admission to the college. Only those who note a violent crime or a high-level sex offense would potentially be weeded out. Even then, a group of mental and health experts as well as the police would evaluate applicants. Those who are deemed too unstable will be denied admission to the university. The ACLU will also take a close look at any decision about applicants getting accepted or denied based on the criminal background check. The organization noted that a person’s criminal record “does not mean that he or she should be denied the opportunity of a college education. Nor does a record alone mean that a person will be a safety problem on campus.” Among current students, the idea of implementing these criminal background questions is split in half. Some students agree with these measures, while others believe that it could keep talented student from receiving an education. Godfrey notes that the decision is a difficult one as the college wants to keep the campus safe but does not want to deny anyone an education. The other issue UW will have to deal with is the fact that the college is state-funded, which could mean potential legal liability and discrimination lawsuits if they deny an applicant admission because of the criminal history.

As of 2012, the incidents of on campus violence have compelled many parents of students and colleges to call for background checks on applicants. As stated previously, around 64 percent of colleges have a section in the application that asks potential students to divulge any criminal history. Around half of these colleges actually follow up on the information they receive. A smaller amount, around 7 percent of colleges, performs actual criminal background checks on all applicants. Most colleges prefer to keep the criminal history on the applications, because checking criminal history records of all the applicants would be a useless expense for universities. Even if there was some useful information, college officials cannot control human behavior. Aside from the expense, many colleges avoid detailed criminal history records, as they do not want to become embroiled in the middle of a discrimination lawsuit. UW is discussing the pros and cons of adding this new measure to protect the students on their campus. Should they decide to move forward with the decision, the criminal history questions will appear on their Fall 2014 applications.

When it comes to either employee or students applications, organizations who decide to use background screening need to use a professional and reputable company like This way, although more than 400 million criminal records across the state would be searched with tools like US OneSEARCH, they could be sure that the records are secure and the staff will only release the appropriate information to officials. Colleges might also be interested in using the Reference Verification tool, in order to make sure the students they are admitting have the personal qualities described on their applications.

About - - a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and cofounder of the Expungement Clearinghouse - serves thousands of customers nationwide, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies by providing comprehensive screening services. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with an Eastern Operations Center in Chapin, S.C., is home to one of the largest online criminal conviction databases in the industry. For more information about backgroundchecks’ offerings, please visit



Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • December 04 Chicago Public Schools has dismissed hundreds of employees, coaches, vendors, and volunteers based on background check findings. The district recently vowed to re-check the majority of its 68,000 employees after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed holes in its background check policies.
  • November 29 Striving to create a safer environment more conducive to productive training and leadership development, the Army has recently moved to adopt a uniform policy of background checks for certain roles. 
  • November 27 California’s biggest public school district is waiving the cost of volunteer background checks. The move is meant to encourage more family - and community members to get involved with the school district.
  • November 22 Contractors play an important role in the workforce, delivering services to both individuals and organizations. Vetting contractors for suitability continues to be a challenge, as two recent articles prove.
  • November 21 When it comes to background and pre-employment checks, it can be instructive to look at the characteristics of the ten most massive U.S. employers.
  • November 20 The #MeToo movement is bringing about legislative changes employers need to know about. We review some of the laws recently passed in California.
  • November 19

    Will a criminal conviction show up on your background check forever? In most states, there is a year limit for how long background check companies can report older criminal information.

  • November 15

    Replacing an inconsistent array of procedures, Ontario's government has passed into law a reform act intended to clarify how police departments should handle requests for information to be used in background checks. 

  • November 14 The federal government has vowed to cut its backlog of security clearance background checks in half by spring. Currently, the backlog is approximately 600,000 names strong.
  • November 12 To ensure the best hires, DFWSPF has implemented a stringent employee screening process—one that includes background searches through