The Home School Court Report
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 2
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MARCH / APRIL 2003


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Letter should fix college admission problems

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Letter should fix college admissions problems


HOMESCHOOLERS DO NOT HAVE TO OBTAIN STATE RECOGNITION OF THEIR DIPLOMA


At the end of November, the United States Department of Education finally issued a formal letter* to all universities clarifying issues regarding admission of homeschooled students to college. Christopher Klicka, Senior Counsel at the Home School Legal Defense Association, worked with Jeffery Andrade, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Postsecondary Education, to produce this "Dear Colleague" letter.

The summary of the letter states:

An institution can admit most home-schooled students as regular students without jeopardizing its eligibility to participate in the Title IV, HEA [Higher Education Act] student financial assistance programs. The Department considers that a home-schooled student is beyond the age of compulsory school attendance if the State in which the institution is located does not consider the student truant once he or she has completed a home-school program.

This statement resolves a frequent problem associated with colleges denying "underage" homeschool students. The letter makes it clear that students who graduate from their homeschool program before reaching the state's compulsory age can be admitted to a college without that college losing any of its federal financial aid.

Among other things, the "Dear Colleague" letter also states that homeschoolers can self-certify the completion of their secondary education in a homeschool setting. No proof is required to be submitted in order to receive student financial aid.

Federal Student Aid Handbook revised
The "Dear Colleague" letter pointed out some long-awaited changes to the new 2002-2003 Federal Student Aid Handbook. HSLDA reported these needed corrections in "Ending college discrimination," July/August 2002 Court Report (www.hslda.org/courtreport), and Klicka testified to the importance of the changes before the U.S. Department of Education's regulatory commission.

In the new handbook, Volume 1, chapter 1 specifically states that a homeschool "student is eligible to receive FSA [Federal Student Aid] funds if the student's secondary school education was in a home school that state law treats as a home or private school."

The same section also states that

the Department considers a home school student to be beyond the age of compulsory attendance if your school's state would not require the student to further attend secondary school or continue to be homeschooled.

The most helpful section of the handbook is found in Volume 2, chapter 1, pages 6-7. This section makes it clear that homeschool students who complete their homeschool curriculum before reaching the minimum age in compulsory education "can properly be admitted to a post-secondary school participating in federal financial assistance programs." The U.S. Department of Education confirms that homeschoolers fit into the third category of eligibility as listed below.

An eligible institution may admit as regular students only persons who:

>> Have a high school diploma;

>> Have a recognized equivalent, as defined by the regulations, of a high school diploma; or

>> Are beyond age of compulsory school attendance in the state in which the institution is located . . .

On the issue of proof of completion, the handbook now says on page 7 of Volume 2, chapter 1 that

Home school students may self-certify their completion of a home school curriculum, just as high school graduates may self-certify their receipt of a diploma. Home-schooled students are NOT required to obtain a state certification of home school completion unless their state law provides for the issuance of such a certification.

This puts to rest an often-abused procedure that some colleges have tried to apply to homeschoolers, demanding that they present a high school diploma specifically recognized by the state. This has never been a lawful requirement, and this clarification makes it perfectly clear that homeschoolers do not have to obtain state recognition of their diploma. Out of 50 states, none require homeschoolers to obtain such a certification of their high school diploma. Only one state offers homeschoolers a voluntary procedure for obtaining a diploma.

Conclusion
HSLDA believes the "Dear Colleague" letter and handbook revisions will resolve misunderstandings and significantly reduce admissions and financial aid problems faced by homeschoolers. We have already referred to these revisions in helping dozens of homeschoolers resolve problems. In fact, the University of Maine recently agreed to drop its GED requirement for homeschoolers across the system of state schools.

For more background on this issue, see "Ending college discrimination" in the July/August 2002 issue of the Court Report at www.hslda.org/courtreport.

Endnotes
* The letter can be found on the U.S. Department of Education's financial aid website at: http://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN0211.html.

This handbook is sent to virtually all the colleges in the country and is accessible under the "Publications" list on the U.S. Department of Education's financial aid website at: http://ifap.ed.gov.