June 11, 2009

Senate Bill 1547: Home School Eligibility for State Financial Aid

Senator Ken Cuccinelli

This bill (after amendments HSLDA has requested and the sponsor has agreed to) makes homeschoolers, including those under the religious exemption, eligible to participate in all state college scholarship programs. For scholarship purposes, completion of the homeschool program would be treated the same as graduation from a Virginia high school. If a scholarship program requires a specific grade point average or class rank, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia will develop an empirical way to create an equivalent alternative for homeschoolers.

2/4/2009 (Senate) Unanimous consent to introduce
2/4/2009 (Senate) Presented and ordered printed 094208216
2/4/2009 (Senate) Referred to Committee on Education and Health
2/5/2009 (Senate) Reported from Education and Health (15-Yes 0-No)
2/6/2009 (Senate) Constitutional reading dispensed (39-Yes 0-No)
2/9/2009 (Senate) Read second time and engrossed
2/9/2009 (Senate) Read third time and passed Senate (40-Yes 0-No)
2/9/2009 (Senate) Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Yes 0-No)
2/9/2009 (House) Placed on Calendar
2/13/2009 (House) Read first time
2/13/2009 (House) Referred to Committee on Education
2/17/2009 (House) Assigned Education subcommittee on Higher Education and Arts
2/17/2009 (House) Subcommittee recommends reporting with amendment
2/23/2009 (House) Reported from Education with amendments (Yes-22, No-0)
2/24/2009 (House) Read second time
2/25/2009 (House) Read third time
2/25/2009 (House) Committee amendments agreed to
2/25/2009 (House) Engrossed by House as amended
2/25/2009 (House) Passed House with amendments, block vote (100-Yes, 0-No)
2/25/2009 (House) Vote: Block vote passage (100-Yes, 0-No
2/26/2009 (Senate) House amendments agreed to by Senate (38-Yes, 0-No)
3/9/2009 (Senate) House amendments agreed to by Senate (38-Yes, 0-No)

This bill has passed, and has been signed by Governor Kaine.

HSLDA's Position:

Action Requested:
No action is requested at this time.

The Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP) can cover full tuition, fees and a book allowance for students who have financial need, as determined by the individual college. But VGAP requires that scholarship recipients be “graduates of a high school” in Virginia. Home instruction is defined in law as not being a “school”, so colleges won’t give the scholarship to homeschool students. Furthermore, VGAP requires a 2.5 high school grade point average, and some colleges have refused to acknowledge the validity of homeschoolers’ GPAs for scholarship purposes.

S.B. 1547 treats a student who has completed of a program of homeschooling (under either notice of intent or religious exemption) the same way a “graduate of a high school” is treated. Then it requires SCHEV (State Council of Higher Education for Virginia) to develop a fair, objective equivalent for grade point average and class rank. The bill thus levels the playing field for homeschool graduates. (There are other requirements for the scholarship as well, but they are not problematic for homeschoolers.)

As originally introduced, the bill’s language needed to be adjusted slightly. Representatives of Home Educators of Virginia, and Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers and I worked steadily last week with a representative of SCHEV to develop revised language. This new language was amended into the bill last night (but does not show up on the legislature’s website yet).

As amended, the bill says:

“Persons who have completed a program of home school instruction in accordance with sec. 22.1-254.1 and persons who have been excused from school attendance pursuant to subsection B of sec. 22.1-254 shall be eligible to participate in and shall be deemed to have met the high school graduation requirements for purposes of eligibility for any state-supported financial aid or other higher education programs. When a high school grade point average, class rank, or other academic criteria is specified as a condition of participating in a program, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia shall develop empirical alternative equivalent measures that may be required for such programs.”

 Other Resources

E-lert—February 17, 2009—Virginia: Call Now for Scholarship Equity Bill

E-lert—February 18, 2009—Virginia: Call for Scholarship Bill Before Full Committee Vote

E-lert—February 23, 2009—Virginia: House Committee Approves Scholarship Equity Bill

E-lert—February 27, 2009—Virginia: Update: Scholarship Equity Bill Passes House Unopposed

E-lert—May 4, 2009—Virginia: Update: Scholarship Equity Bill Passes Last Legislative Hurdle

Bill Text

Bill History