The Home School Court Report
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Freedom Watch

Update on Social Security Numbers

Parents who want to claim dependent exemptions on their 1996 tax return must provide a correct taxpayer identification number (TIN) for each child they wish to claim. In short: no social security number, no deduction. Prior to the passage of "The Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996," if a taxpayer failed to provide a correct TIN for a dependent, the IRS was limited to imposing a $50.00 penalty per dependent.

Under the new law, the IRS is authorized to completely deny the dependency exemption to anyone who lists the names of their children as dependent exemptions on their tax forms, but fails to furnish corresponding TIN's for each name. Instead of a $50.00 fine, the IRS will treat such information as a mathematical or clerical error. This also means that any notification from the IRS that a taxpayer owes additional tax because of that failure would not be treated as a deficiency notice, and the taxpayer would have no opportunity to petition the Tax Court.

More Colleges Welcome Home Schoolers

A growing number of home educated students are setting their sights on institutions of higher learning. How are colleges and universities responding to these atypical cases?

We believe students educated at home possess the passion for knowledge, the independence, and the self-reliance that enable them to excel.
— Boston University

Last fall the National Center for Home Education surveyed college home school admission policies. Of 60 colleges polled, 96% had 1—200 students who had been home educated. Even with our generous definition of "policy," only 44% had verbal or written procedures for home school applicants, but schools reported an almost universal desire to improve this figure.

To encourage colleges to "streamline" admissions policies for home schoolers, the National Center created a packet for college admissions officers. A cover letter describes the academic success of home schoolers and presents the group summary scores for over 16,000 home schoolers on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills which demonstrate that on average, the typical home schooler scores higher than 73% of the student population.

The National Center offers the following guidelines to colleges wanting to make their admission policies home schooler-friendly.

  1. An accredited diploma or GED should not be required (unless students accept Title IV federal financial aid).
  2. Colleges should withdraw grade point averages and class rank as admission criteria. Instead, home school admission policies should evaluate students using a combination of the following: SAT/ACT scores, course descriptions, letters of recommendation from parents and non-family members, bibliography of high school literature, flexible transcript guidelines, student essay, interviews, and description of extracurricular activities.
  3. Colleges should not mandate SAT II testing in specific subject areas. It is unnecessary and discriminatory.

High moral values, strong work ethics, and self-discipline—not to mention an academically and socially creative background—these are the things which contribute to home schoolers success in college. From Harvard and Yale to the University of Alaska, colleges' positive feedback on their experience with home schoolers was abundant.

"Home schoolers have won our distinct Honors Program the last three years in a row," said Hillsdale College.

"These home schoolers write fabulous essays!" said Emory University. "Very creative!"

"Home schoolers have a distinct advantage because of the individualized instruction they have received," said Dartmouth College.

The University of Kentucky, with about 50 home educated students, commented, "Our home schoolers tend to be very bright and have scored very high on standardized tests."

Harvard University accepts 10—20 home schoolers every year.

Several colleges are so eager to attract these bright young students they have created home school scholarships—some as high as $12,000! Liberty University of Virginia and Nyack College of New York offer qualifying students $1,000 in scholarship funds for every year of home education (a maximum of $12,000 spread over four years of college enrollment).

Oral Roberts University surveyed their 212 home educated students—about 10% of the student body—and found that, in addition to having statistically higher cumulative college grade point averages than the rest of the student body, 80% of their home schoolers were involved in various clubs and ministries. Over 90% participated in intramural sports.

Starting this year, home educated athletes with sufficiently high standardized test scores and proof that they studied the requisite subjects may be automatically awarded freshman eligibility in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Just as the results of the National Center's survey came in, Executive Director Christopher J. Klicka was invited to speak in a workshop to over 250 college admission officers from around the country at the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) convention in Minnesota. He has since been interviewed on this issue by USA Today and has addressed this topic twice through live interviews on the FOX News Network. The National Center continues to promote positive home education admissions policies through the media and dialogue with college admission officers.

An increasing number of colleges and universities are recognizing the unique capabilities of home schoolers. Because of the outstanding results of home school graduates, more colleges are actively recruiting home schoolers. Home School Legal Defense Association has compiled a list of more than 360 colleges that have accepted home schoolers. College acceptance may be challenging, but we are making progress. Home schoolers are launching into exciting uncharted territory. Be a trailblazer!

State Farm & USAA Offer "Good Student Discounts"

For several years, the National Center has received calls from HSLDA members stating that they had problems getting "good student" auto insurance discounts for their home schooled children. Apparently, companies were unsure how to classify home schoolers. Consequently, beginning in the fall of 1995, the National Center decided to probe several "big name" insurance companies across the country (Preferred Risk, State Farm, USAA, Allstate, etc.) to find out if they had written (or were in the process of writing) policies for home schoolers and to offer any assistance we could.

The results of our probe were very interesting, but a little discouraging. It seemed that most companies were open to home schoolers participating in their good student programs, but only on a strictly case-by-case basis, with no written policy as a guide.

Only one of the companies we interviewed had a current written policy on home schooling (Preferred Risk of Georgia), but it was limited to Georgia home schoolers. Two companies were in the process of writing policies to be eventually implemented nationwide—State Farm and USAA.

For auto insurance companies, good grades translate into a lower risk student driver. Therefore, the National Center provided State Farm and USAA with several studies and academic research papers demonstrating the academic success of home schooling.

At the same time, insurance agents who home school also began asking for a more equitable arrangement for home educated students. Doug Perry, a State Farm agent from Sacramento, California, was one such agent. He contacted the State Farm home office in Bloomington, Indiana, and working from the inside, petitioned the company to broaden their good student discount to include home schoolers.

In the fall of 1996, the National Center learned that State Farm and USAA were drafting written policies for home school students. In a follow-up conversation with State Farm in early January 1997, the National Center was pleased to learn that State Farm had completed its policy and had recently begun implementation in eight states: California, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Virginia. State Farm is considering expanding the program the next time they revise the rates in the other states.

In order to qualify for a Good Student Discount from State Farm (5—25% off the regular student policy), a home schooler must present proof to his agent that he was ranked in the top 20% on one of the following standardized tests taken within the past year: PSAT, PLAN, SAT-I (Scholastic Aptitude Test), ACT, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or California Achievement Test.

USAA also announced in early January that they had just completed a new "good student" policy (5—30% discount) now available to qualifying home schoolers in all states except Hawaii, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Carolina. Qualification under USAA is similar to State Farm. A home schooler must score a "B" average or above on a report card issued by an "associated public school or certified teacher." Or a home schooler must rank in the upper 20th percentile on "a national exam which specifies the grade level and curriculum tested."

We encourage you to contact your auto insurance company and inquire as to the availability of a good student discount. If these policies do not apply where you live, we encourage you to write letters asking State Farm, USAA, or the insurance company you use to make this option available to good home school students in your state.

Note: In some states, insurance companies may not be able to offer discounts to home schoolers because of conflicting state laws.