How West Virginia’s Catch-22 Hurts Promising Homeschool Students
by Mike Donnelly • February 6, 2018
Jonathan Biedler is a 16-year-old Martinsburg resident who scored 1390 on the SAT and is a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist. As a homeschool student, Jonathan has already earned college credit through CLEP tests and dual enrollment at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, where he has been accepted to matriculate as full-time student in the upcoming school year.
However, unless the legislature acts to fix a conflict in West Virginia’s law, Jonathan will be blocked from eligibility for the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.
A Legal Impossibility
When Jonathan applied for the PROMISE Scholarship program, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) told him he had to take the GED or he wouldn’t be eligible.
Here’s the catch: in Jonathan’s case, it’s actually impossible for him to take the GED. State law prohibits anyone under the age of 17 from taking the test unless they are enrolled in the West Virginia public school credit recovery program.
If the conflict in the law is not fixed, Jonathan’s only option is to start college without the scholarship and take the GED as soon as he turns 17.
“Jonathan has been working so hard and has a really distinguished record,’ says Phillip Biedler, Jonathan’s father. “He shouldn’t have to take the GED. What’s he going to say to his college professors—‘Sorry, I have to take two days off to take the GED’?”
Aron Ludwinski is another high-achieving homeschool student whose eligibility for the PROMISE scholarship could mean the difference between attending an out-of-state school or the one he really wants to go to.
Aron scored a 29 on the ACT and already has 50 college credits with a 3.9 grade point average. But because he is 16, he can’t take the GED and thus can’t apply for the PROMISE Scholarship. Aron is expecting a significant scholarship offer from Virginia Tech, but would prefer to attend West Virginia University.
“It’s a shame that Aron has been put in this situation,” says Donna Ludwinski, Aron’s mom. “And I know he’s not the only one. Being from McDowell County and a proud West Virginia family, we’d like to see Aron stay in state, but we couldn’t encourage him to go into debt [to go to WVU] if Virginia Tech were to make him a strong scholarship offer. Being awarded the PROMISE Scholarship might make the difference.”
“As a homeschooling parent, I think it’s a real shame that we are treated differently,” Donna continues. “It shouldn’t matter where a child gets their diploma as long as they meet the other requirements. Aron has clearly demonstrated his ability to achieve. Isn’t he the kind of student we want to keep in West Virginia?”
Let’s Fix this Problem Once and for All
It’s long past time for West Virginia lawmakers to address the conflict in state law. HSLDA has been trying to get the legislature to take action for years, with no result. But this year, a pair of promising bills are gaining traction.
H.B. 4277 and S.B. 319 would resolve the issue by requiring the West Virginia HEPC to change its regulations and policies to treat all high school graduates equally. Homeschoolers would no longer have to take the GED to be eligible for the PROMISE Scholarship.
To homeschooling parents like Phillip and Donna, passing these bills is a no-brainer.
While taking the GED may be appropriate for some types of students, Donna says, it really isn’t right to require homeschool students to take it.
“Homeschool students have demonstrated over decades that they receive an outstanding education. West Virginia law recognized this with 18-8-12, and it’s time for the state’s PROMISE Scholarship to do the same.”