By Thomas Ahearn, ESR news Staff Writer

In an effort to help ensure campus safety, higher educational institutions across the country are starting to consider conducting criminal background checks on both applicants and admitted students, according to a recent article on

As an example, reports that following the murder of a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2004 by a classmate with a history of violence against women — and the subsequent lawsuit filed by the deceased student’s parents — the North Carolina system began requiring all of its campuses to conduct criminal background checks on students with red flags on their criminal records.

However, a panel discussion at the National Association of College and University Attorneys revealed that the questions of whether to conduct student background checks — and how to — are not resolved and that criminal background checks on applicants and students can be described as a “legal and policy jigsaw puzzle with pieces that include campus safety, legal risk, and individual rights, according to the USAToday report.

The article cites a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) in which 66% of educational institutions reported having collected criminal record information from students, with the most common method of getting criminal information being self-disclosure questions on applications. Yet of the 144 institutions that reported collecting criminal justice information from applicants, only ten used criminal background checks, reported.

Higher education institutions in North Carolina are not alone in considering student background checks. Both Maryland and Virginia are considering requiring colleges and universities to conduct background checks on students in the wake of a murder of a female student at the University of Virginia allegedly at the hands of a fellow student.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at