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J. Michael Smith, Esq.
President

Michael P. Farris, Esq.
Chairman

Update on Byrd Scholarship Eligibility for Homeschoolers

William A. Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations

March 12, 2010

Last year, we reported that homeschoolers won a major victory against discrimination with the quiet passage of legislation opening up the Byrd Scholarship to homeschool graduates.

HSLDA has been monitoring the implementation of the new legislative language. Unfortunately, many state departments of education have been slow in incorporating this change into their policies and procedures.

The Byrd Scholarship is only awarded to high school seniors who have applied or been accepted for enrollment at an institution of higher education. It is administered by state departments of education, and funded by the federal government. College financial offices can provide assistance, but if a homeschool family is interested in the Byrd Scholarship for their homeschool senior, they should contact their state department of education. Homeschoolers should visit their state department of education’s webpage and view the section on the Byrd Scholarship, which should have the necessary information and registration forms. Most states set April 1 as the deadline for scholarship applications.

The federal government has allocated limited funds to the states for the Byrd Scholarship, so it is an extremely competitive scholarship. We are continuing to work with the states to ensure that they understand that homeschoolers are fully eligible for the Byrd Scholarship. If your state has incorrect information, or tries to say that homeschoolers are not eligible for the scholarship, please contact HSLDA’s Federal Relations Department at 540-338-5600, or federalrelations@hslda.org, and we will work with you to fix this problem.

Background

Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia, the longest-serving U.S. senator ever, introduced federal legislation in 1985 to create this scholarship. The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program is the only national merit-based scholarship program funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The scholarship provides stipends of up to $6,000 over four years to high school graduates who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and who have been accepted for enrollment at a college or university.

When the Byrd Scholarship was created, an “eligible student” for the scholarship was defined as “a graduate of a public or private secondary school.” Homeschool graduates in states that recognized homeschoolers as private schools were able to benefit from the scholarship, but homeschool graduates in states with a homeschool statute were inadvertently excluded.

HSLDA worked to fix this problem for many years. In 2008, Congress began working on a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965. We worked with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to include clarifying language. Our amendment was included in H.R. 4137, was passed by Congress, and was signed into law by former President George W. Bush on August 14, 2008. This change made it clear that homeschool graduates are eligible for the Byrd Scholarship.

We hope that your family can benefit from this scholarship. We are aware of several homeschool graduates who were awarded the Byrd Scholarship last year, and we look forward to working with member families to increase the number of homeschool graduates who win this competitive scholarship.