Breakthrough on College Admission and Financial Aid
- 2003 5 Jan
At the end of November, the U.S. Department of Education finally issued a formal letter to all universities clarifying admission of homeschooled students to college. Chris Klicka, Senior Counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), worked with Jeffery Andrade, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Postsecondary Education, to produce this "Dear Colleague" letter.
The summary of the letter states, "An institution can admit most home-schooled students as regular students without jeopardizing its eligibility to participate in the Title IV, HEA [Higher Education Act] student financial assistance programs. The Department considers that a home-schooled student is beyond the age of compulsory school attendance if the State in which the institution is located does not consider the student truant once he or she has completed a home-school program."
This letter is an important clarification since it resolves the frequent problem associated with "underage" homeschool students denied admission to college. The letter makes it absolutely clear that students who graduate from their homeschool program before reaching the state's compulsory age can be admitted to a college without that college losing any of its federal financial aid.
In the past, homeschool students below the compulsory attendance age were able to receive federal student aid for college, but yet the Handbook stated that those same students could not be accepted into a college because the college would lose its financial aid.
The "Dear Colleague" letter also states that homeschoolers can self-certify their completion of their secondary education in a homeschool setting. No proof is required to be submitted in order to receive student financial aid. The letter can be found at the U.S. Department of Education's financial aid website at: http://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN0211.html
Federal Student Aid Handbook Revised
For the most part, the "Dear Colleague" pointed out the long awaited changes to the new 2002-2003 Federal Student Aid Handbook. This Handbook is sent to virtually all the colleges in the country and is accessible on the U.S. Department of Education's financial aid website.
Volume 1, chapter 1 of the Handbook specifically states that a homeschool "student is eligible to receive FSA [Federal Student Aid] funds if the student's secondary school education was in a home school that state law treats as a home or private school." It also states that "the Department considers a home school student to be beyond the age of compulsory attendance if your school's state would not require the student to further attend secondary school or continue to be homeschooled." You can find this section of the Handbook at the U.S. Department of Education webpage:
The most helpful section of the Handbook is found in Volume 2, chapter 1, pages 6-7. This section makes it clear that homeschool students who complete their homeschool curriculum before reaching the minimum age in compulsory education "can properly be admitted to a post-secondary school participating in federal financial assistance programs." The U.S. Department of Education confirms that homeschoolers fit into the third category of eligibility as listed below.
"An eligible institution may admit as regular students only persons who:
1. Have a high school diploma;
2. Have a recognized equivalent, as defined by the regulations, of a high school diploma; or
3. Are beyond age of compulsory school attendance in the state in which the institution is located...."
On the issue of proof of completion, the Handbook now says on page 7 of Volume 2, chapter 1 states: "Home school students may self-certify their completion of a home school curriculum, just as high school graduates may self-certify their receipt of a diploma. Home-schooled students are NOT required to obtain a state certification of home school completion unless their state law provides for the issuance of such a certification."
This puts to rest the often-abused procedure that some colleges have tried to apply to homeschoolers, demanding that they present a high school diploma specifically recognized by the state. This has never been a lawful requirement, and this clarification makes it perfectly clear that homeschoolers do not have to obtain state recognition of their diploma.
Presently, of the 50 states, there are no states that require homeschoolers to obtain such a certification of their high school diploma. Only one state offers homeschoolers a voluntary procedure for obtaining a diploma.
Letter and Revised Handbook Should Clear Up Long History of Problems
Many homeschoolers have faced difficulty at various universities or college institutions during the 2001-2002 school year because some colleges refuse to admit homeschoolers for fear of losing their federal funding.
The source of the problem? The Federal Student Aid Handbook that was issued during the last year of the Clinton administration contained inaccurate information. The Handbook indicated that colleges would lose their institutional eligibility if they admitted homeschool students. The Handbook was inaccurate and contradicted the federal law.
Federal law states that colleges can only receive federal funding for their institution if the students they admit have either a high school diploma, a GED, or if the students are beyond compulsory school attendance age.
HSLDA worked with many colleges to convince them that the Handbook was wrong and that they could admit homeschoolers, even if the students were under compulsory attendance age.
Chris Klicka worked with Eric Jasso, the Deputy Counsel for the Postgraduate Education, to resolve the discrepancy. On March 6, 2002, Klicka testified before the Regulatory Board of the U.S. Department of Education. Klicka explained that the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 (which HSLDA) drafted, make it clear that students who complete a secondary education in a homeschool setting are eligible for federal financial aid.
Yet the Handbook indicates that if those same students are accepted into a college, the college will lose its federal funding. The Regulatory Commission thus signed off on new language drafted by Klicka and Eric Jasso to correct the Handbook errors.
In April, Jasso issued a letter that HSLDA widely distributed to help clarify the problem in the interim period, while the Handbook was being revised. Nonetheless, some universities remained stubborn and refused to change their policies, fearing the loss of institutional eligibility if they accepted homeschooled students who were under the age of 18. HSLDA attorneys worked many hours with colleges and universities helping homeschool students finally gain admission in nearly every case.
Homeschoolers of Any Age Can be Admitted to Federally Funded Colleges
The U.S. Department of Education has finally spoken in plain words on this issue: colleges need not fear losing federal funding by admitting homeschool students. They are free to admit homeschool students at any age, and those homeschool students are eligible for personal financial aid as well.
We are thankful for the revisions in the Handbook and the new "Dear Colleague" letter. We believe that this will clear the air and enable homeschoolers to easily gain admission to colleges based on the merit of their excellent academic programs and will also enable homeschoolers to freely obtain student financial assistance without any further unnecessary and illegal barriers.
Visit the Home School Legal Defense Association at www.hslda.org