University of Iowa to add criminal background check to application

CaptureWork is being done to create a standardized application for all three universities

IOWA CITY — Starting next month, for the first time, all student applicants to the University of Iowa will have to disclose whether they’ve ever been convicted of a crime or subject to prior scholastic discipline.

And the new criminal background check questions eventually will be included on a common application being developed in hopes of improving convenience for students wanting to apply to more than one of Iowa’s public universities.

That common application, which officials say will debut in limited form in July as part of the application cycle for fall 2016, is among several recommendations stemming from the Board of Regents’ recent “transparent, inclusive efficiency review” of UI, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa.

Iowa State and UNI for years have included criminal background questions on their undergraduate and graduate applications. UI, which has not previously asked for that information, first began considering adding background questions to its application two years ago, according to Emil Rinderspacher, UI director of admissions.

As part of that process, a UI committee surveyed peer institutions about how they handled applicants who answered “yes” to those questions. But the committee’s discussions stalled last year in light of funding and enrollment concerns, Rinderspacher said in an email to The Gazette.

The university resurrected the discussions this past winter and plans to add questions to its coming application cycle, which begins in July, he said.

UI, ISU, and UNI recently agreed to include criminal background questions on the new common application, although Rinderspacher said he doesn’t expect them to be included in the initial version.

“This will be one of the items that the common app committee will discuss adding to the next version for the freshmen entering fall 2017,” Rinderspacher said.

Although UI doesn’t currently ask about criminal histories of undergraduate and graduate applicants, it does ask transfer students if they ever have been placed on “non-academic probation or dismissed or suspended from another college or university for non-academic reasons,” or whether a complaint is pending at an institution that might result in discipline.

“The UI’s current question, which is only asked of transfer students, only deals with college or university behavior and only refers to non-academic matters,” according to Rinderspacher.

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