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February 9, 2016

Graduates Wrongly Shut Out of College

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Because of a confusing state policy memo, several qualified homeschooled graduates recently have encountered difficulty enrolling in college. HSLDA is working through multiple venues, including the state legislature, to resolve the issue.

YOUR ATTORNEY Tj Schmidt Tj Schmidt

The problem came to light over the past few months. Several graduates reported to both HSLDA and the state homeschool organization Loving Education at Home (LEAH) that their high school credentials were being rejected by community colleges and schools in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. They were also being told they were not eligible for the New York Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Yet another college was informing homeschooling families that high school credit homeschoolers earned through online courses would not be accepted.

There are several ways the New York Board of Regents have suggested homeschooled graduates be matriculated. The two most common ways are by obtaining a document from their local public school superintendent, often called a letter of substantial equivalency, or by completing 24 hours of college credit.

Misguided Policy

However, in the recently reported cases homeschooled students were being told they could not be matriculated unless they applied for and received the New York state equivalency diploma (akin to the GED). Most of these students were told this decision was based on new guidance that had come down from the New York State Education Department.

We learned that the college admissions personnel were all referring to a memo written on January 21, 2015. The document stated that to be eligible for TAP, a student without a recognized diploma had to apply and receive a GED. While the memo did not reference the letter of substantial equivalency, it stated that only a recognized diploma or the GED was acceptable proof of completion of high school, which implied that the letter was not acceptable. The problem was that this memo was not written to address homeschool graduates. Instead it was for online diploma students and TAP aid.

Setting the Record Straight

Schmidt subsequently spoke with an NYSED official who was involved in creating the January 21, 2015 memo, and who confirmed that the memo should not apply to homeschool graduates. Schmidt also spoke with two SUNY officials, who agreed that another memo from 2005 about homeschool graduates is the one that should be followed.

Since these meetings we understand that NYSED and SUNY are working to clarify this issue in favor of homeschool graduates.

In addition, Schmidt and two delegates from LEAH, Michael Baily and Patti Owens, met with a dozen legislators or their staff to discuss these problems. As a result, new legislation promoting homeschool freedom, Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788, and addressing homeschool graduation, Assembly Bill 43 and Senate Bill 841, has been introduced in the current legislative session.

Several legislators also contacted both the NYSED and SUNY for an explanation.