December 5, 2011

HSLDA Helps Pell Grant Applicant

When the graduate of a home education program sought federal financial aid in the form of a Pell Grant to attend Delaware County Community College this fall, the school’s financial aid office responded that his credentials did not qualify him for this assistance. According to the documentation provided by the college, homeschooled students seeking Pell Grants were required to submit a high school diploma from an approved homeschooling organization or pass the GED test and thereafter obtain a Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma. In this case, the applicant had already provided the college with a transcript indicating that he had completed high school graduation requirements in a home education program under Pennsylvania law.

After the family contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for help last month, Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the college’s director of financial aid and pointed out that the college was applying the wrong law to the applicant’s request. Black told the official that instead of applying federal law to the request for the Pell Grant, the college was attempting to apply requirements established by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency for state financial aid.

The federal Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998 prohibit colleges receiving federal funds from requiring an accredited high school diploma or GED in order for a student to be eligible for federal financial aid if “the student has completed a secondary school education in a homeschool setting that is treated as a homeschool or private school under state law.” According to the U.S. Department of Education regulations, a student fulfills this requirement if he was homeschooled and either (1) obtained a secondary school completion credential as provided by state law or (2) has completed a secondary school education in a homeschool setting under state law. Under this program, homeschool students may self-certify their completion of a secondary school curriculum. After being provided with this information, the community college approved the application for the Pell Grant.