Originally Sent: 8/7/2014

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Low Cost College Classes Now Available to 11th and 12 Grade Homeschool Students

Homeschooling in South Dakota.

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Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.
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A new program, called the “Dual Credit” program, is now available that will give 11th and 12th grade homeschool students the ability to take classes at one of the state’s public colleges, universities, or technical schools for only $40 per credit hour. This is far below the usual rate.

Because the program is so new, the final rules and procedures are not yet in place. However, with college enrollment deadlines for the fall semester just around the corner, we wanted you to know about this opportunity in case you want your homeschooled child to take advantage of this. If you are interested, you should immediately file your annual Certificate of Excuse and move forward quickly.

Many states now offer high school students the ability to take low cost college classes. This option has been available in Iowa, for example, for many years. Many homeschoolers take advantage of it and there are few problems.

As you would expect, there are a few “strings” attached to the South Dakota program, but nothing so onerous that it should discourage you from checking it out. Here are a few “strings” that we know of at this point.

  • The parent must agree that the college class will be recorded on the student’s high school transcript.

  • The parent must agree that the college class will be used in calculating the child’s academic standing (i.e, grade point average).

  • The child must have a current certificate of excuse on file with the local public school.

  • The student must register for the college class through the “identified point of contact” at each college (each college will have one person who processes registration for Dual Credit classes).

  • The student must meet all the college’s requirements for registering.

  • The parents must monitor the student’s progress in the class.

  • The parents must submit a report to the state at the end of the semester stating the course the child took and the grade awarded.

  • The parents will be required to sign an agreement with the state that covers these items (called a “memorandum of understanding”).

For more details, see this document and this document.

Information for registering at the following institutions, including a list of “single point of contact” persons, can be accessed by clicking below.

All three of my kids took college classes while my wife and I were homeschooling, and I’d like to pass on some things I have learned.

  1. College classes in general look great on a high school transcript, but be aware that your child may end up taking a class from a professor whose world view is hostile to yours. The professor may pride himself in getting his students to drop the worldview his parents were trying to instill in him and adopt his own. This seems to be an issue primarily in English, History and Psychology classes where professors who are so inclined have plenty of latitude for indoctrination. It is less of an issue in hard science classes.

  2. There are a couple of things you can do. Consider whether your child is “battle-ready”—i.e., are they ready to hold their own in a classroom where their beliefs may be mocked and belittled by the professor and fellow students? Can your child graciously defend his beliefs when the time is right? Is your child likely to be “awestruck” by a charismatic professor and believe about anything he says? None of the schools for which this program is available are Christian colleges. There are many excellent Christian colleges if you believe your child would do better in a context that supports the beliefs you have been trying to instill in him.

  3. Another possible strategy is to graciously interview the professor from whom your child might take a class. An opening sentence might be, “We’re considering signing our 11th grader up for your English writing class, and we’d like to see if there is a good fit between our child and the unique qualities you bring to instruction.” A question like, “What are 3 things that would make the world a better place?” will quickly give you insight into what the professor believes is important in life. I have done this twice and was very glad I did.

  4. Hopefully your child has been growing in his ability to work done independently, i.e., without the need of frequent parental reminders. A college class will put your child’s work ethic to a major test. Consider whether your child is up to it, or needs more time to demonstrate to you that they can get assignments done independently in a context where the deadlines (unlike “mom and dad” deadlines) don’t budge for anyone or any reason.

  5. Many colleges offer online classes. While these are convenient, they also provide less motivation to work diligently than classes where physical attendance is involved. I would recommend not signing a child up for an online college class until they have successfully completed at least one college class where the child physically attended.

  6. Don’t expect the college to change how it does things to make you happy. College classes are designed for adults and often contain “adult” content. Be advised. Don’t expect the college to clean up its language or content to respect your sense of morality or propriety.

  7. Colleges are extremely bureaucratic. If you don’t respect a rule or policy or deadline, you should expect to suffer the consequences, and probably no one will care.

  8. Once your child is signed up for a college class, strongly urge your child to get to know the professor personally by meeting with him in his office a few times. This can make a huge difference in many situations and your child will enjoy the class much more.

Sincerely,

Scott A. Woodruff, Esq.
HSLDA Senior Counsel


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