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October 9, 2007
‘Your diploma was Printed and Signed by Your Parents’

What college would not want Virginia homeschool grad Jonathan Young as a student? He had a very high SAT score, was a standout in debate, and with more than 70 college credit hours under his belt, had already proven he had the right stuff to succeed in college.

But he didn’t have a “state recognized” diploma, so the processing of his application to enroll in Trenton, New Jersey-based Thomas Edison State College came to an abrupt halt. The acting director of admissions wrote:

“How would Thomas Edison State College confirm you have a high school diploma that is recognized in the state of Virginia? Your diploma was printed and signed by your parents. There must be an official document that states you have a high school diploma recognized in the state of Virginia?”

Jonathan’s parents, members of Home School Legal Defense Association, called us for help. HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff faxed a letter to the acting director of admissions.

Woodruff explained that it is the norm for homeschool grads to not have a “state-recognized” diploma. Only two states—Pennsylvania and North Dakota—even offer an option of some form of government recognition, and in those states most homeschool grads do not want it. Rejecting parent-generated diplomas would therefore result in reducing Edison’s applicant pool by essentially all homeschool grads in 48 states, and even most in the remaining two.

Woodruff’s letter included excerpts from several articles about the success of homeschool grads in getting into college. The articles explained that Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Penn State, Brown, and others have all accepted homeschool grads. Some even make special efforts to recruit them.

Woodruff pointed out that federal law squarely supports colleges in accepting parent-issued diplomas. Once upon a time—and probably the source of Edison’s misapprehension—the U.S. Department of Education published inconsistent guidance, some of which implied a parent-issued diploma was not sufficient to protect a college’s eligibility for federal financial aid. HSLDA subsequently spent many hours working with federal officials, however, so that today, revised regulations and policies make it quite clear that a parent-issued diploma will do the job.

Finally, Woodruff wrote that a GED can carry a stigma for a young person, since it implies that the student did not finish high school. The letter suggested that Jonathan would be better off enrolling in another college than risking clouding his excellent academic record with a GED.

A few days later, Thomas Edison State College admitted Jonathan.