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No. 3

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Brookdale Opens Door to Homeschoolers

Homeschooled high schoolers investigating enrollment options at central New Jersey community colleges now have one more college to consider.

After what might be called the “second battle of Monmouth” (take a look at American Revolutionary War history for the first), Brookdale Community College (also known as “County College of Monmouth”) has reversed its discriminatory policy towards homeschoolers and will now allow high school-level homeschoolers to take classes.

For many years, Brookdale was friendly to homeschoolers. Home-educated high schoolers used the college to earn dual enrollment credits and to supplement their high school programs. Then, for reasons not clearly understood, Brookdale slammed the door shut-even though the college continued to allow public school students who had not yet finished high school to enroll through its Fast Start for High School Students program.

In June 2003, Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka wrote a letter on behalf of a member family, asking Brookdale to reverse its policy. Klicka explained that federal policy had recently changed for the purpose of easing homeschoolers' access to college. Brookdale would not budge.

In February 2005, HSLDA Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff knocked on the college’s door again by way of a letter pointing out that Brookdale was the only county college in New Jersey requiring high school-age homeschoolers to possess a GED before enrolling. Woodruff explained that not even the most prestigious colleges in the nation require homeschoolers to have a GED. Receiving no response, Woodruff wrote again in April.

Then the door opened a crack. In a response to Woodruff’s second letter, the Brookdale registrar said the college was reviewing its policies toward homeschooled high schoolers. She added that HSLDA’s previous letters to the school on the subject would be helpful as the review went forward. Despite the registrar’s warning that the policy-change process could be lengthy, area homeschoolers actively pressed the issue with state and local officials.

Finally, in May 2006, Brookdale abolished its discriminatory policy. The new regulations allow homeschoolers to enroll on an equal footing with other high schoolers—homeschoolers are permitted to enroll in up to two courses if they are at least 15, have completed the 9th grade, have earned an adequate score on a placement test or the SAT, and have approval from a parent or guardian.

Although welcome, the new policy does not erase the disappointment of families who were unfairly denied access during the “closed door” years. Nevertheless, we can be hopeful that homeschoolers will make such contributions at Brookdale that officials will never again consider taking the keys away.

— by Scott A. Woodruff