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November 8, 2012

College Confiscates Aid to Homeschooled Student

Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly defends homeschool freedom in Colorado. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

With classes set to begin in less than a month, Sam and Robert Pritcher (names changed to protect privacy) received an email from the college where they were enrolled stating that because they were homeschooled and did not have a GED more than half of their financial aid had been withdrawn.

With tuition becoming increasingly expensive, Sam and Robert’s Federal Pell grants were a critical part of their college financing. Not having the aid could have meant not going back to school.

The brothers were victims of a commonly misunderstood provision of the Federal Student Aid Handbook concerning the eligibility of homeschool students for federal financial aid. Under an old policy, students used to be eligible for funds by taking an “ability-to-benefit” test. A new policy removed this option, but some colleges and universities mistakenly thought that this removed the eligibility of homeschool students, too.

After Mrs. Pritcher contacted HSLDA, Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly put his experience in helping homeschool students with college application and financial aid issues into action. Donnelly and his assistant Gregory Escobar gathered the relevant documentation and sent a firm letter to the college’s financial aid director, explaining the law and urging the official to reinstate the funds.

Federal law specifically recognizes homeschool students as eligible for federal financial aid if the student “has completed a secondary school education in a homeschool setting … under state law.” Homeschool students are not required to get a GED or have a diploma from a public school.

Soon after receiving Donnelly’s letter, the college financial aid office amended its policy and returned the federal grants.

“We thought we were safe from having any issues,” Mrs. Pritcher said. “This was a wake-up call that we must continue to be vigilant for homeschoolers even if we have finished our days of homeschooling.”

HSLDA is pleased to serve our members and resolve big problems. Whether you are just starting out, or graduating your last student, HSLDA is here to provide you the support you need to homeschool with confidence. And when your students walk with that diploma in hand to start off on a new adventure, we are blessed to be able to celebrate with you.