January 28, 2004

Community College Questions

A number of HSLDA members have reported surprising difficulties enrolling their children in community colleges. These problems all appear to stem from a single attorney who has taken the position that Massachusetts, which is already one of the most highly regulated homeschool states in the country, is not regulated enough. Fortunately, there may be hope on the horizon.

Thomas Watson [not his real name] was homeschooled in Roxbury for his 11th and 12th grade years. His mother pulled him out of public school when she realized he was heading for a life of crime. Like many African-American teens in urban settings, Thomas's public school experience did more harm than good.

After two years at home, however, Thomas's life had truly turned around. He completed his homeschool program and signed up for three classes at Roxbury Community College. The college requested a transcript and let him start attending three classes. When they got the transcript, however, they terminated his student status. They allowed him to audit two of the classes, but physically prevented him from attending the third. In desperation, his mother called HSLDA.

HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville contacted the attorney who routinely represents community colleges in Massachusetts. That attorney explained that he was afraid the community colleges would lose their federal financial aid money if they permitted a homeschooled student to attend. All he wanted, he said, was a copy of the "approval letter" for the last two years of this young man's education. Attorney Somerville explained that homeschoolers are not required to have their homeschool programs approved after the age of 16, and that a number of school districts refuse to approve a program after a child turns 16. In this case, since Thomas was removed from the public school after turning 16, the mother had never even sought approval. Thomas had taken and passed the 10th grade Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests which are required for graduation in Massachusetts, but could not show a letter from the Boston Public Schools that recognized his homeschooling.

Fortunately, homeschoolers across the country have worked hard to encourage the United States Department of Education to clarify the federal financial aid status of colleges and universities that admit homeschoolers. In a letter dated April 19, 2002 Eric Jaso, Deputy General Counsel at the Department of Education, explained that homeschoolers can "self-certify" their completion of their homeschool programs. This letter was intended to eliminate the kinds of questions that have now been raised in Massachusetts.

There is reason to hope that the attorney for the community colleges will reevaluate his position. At the very least, Thomas should be able to attend all three classes while the attorneys discuss the federal financial aid questions. Please pray for Thomas and other homeschooled students like him as they seek to educate the community colleges of Massachusetts about the actual requirements of federal law. With your prayers and God's help, Thomas will not be locked out of college for long.

 Other Resources

Letter from Eric Jaso, Deputy General Counsel at the Department of Education   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)