March 6, 2003

New York College Policy Discriminates Against Homeschoolers

Beginning in the 2002-03 school year, homeschoolers are seeing an increase in discrimination as a result of the implementation of a previously dormant New York State Education Department policy. This policy is preventing colleges from recognizing a 9-12 grade homeschool education as being sufficient to enroll in either a State University of New York or community college.

The Board of Regents Rule causing the most trouble at this time, is found in section 3.47(a) of Chapter 1 of Title 8, which states: "no earned degree shall be conferred unless the candidate has had a preliminary education of at least a four year high school course, or its equivalent, as determined by the Commissioner. Satisfactory evidence of such preliminary education must be offered before beginning the course of study for the degree."

This means a private diploma issued by the parent, which millions of homeschool students across the U.S. receive, is not recognized by the state of New York. The commissioner has issued a policy statement saying a homeschooler must produce either a GED, a letter from their school district recognizing the legitimacy of their academic program, or they must enroll in a special GED program that requires completion of 24 specific credit hours in college.

Homeschoolers often do not want to obtain a GED since it carries with it the stigma of a dropout. Homeschoolers are not dropouts; they are completing a full high school education. In addition, most school districts refuse to provide any such documentation because of the liabilities involved. They will not recognize any homeschool program as sufficient, even if the family has followed the requirements of the law. The "special" GED option is difficult for many homeschool students who do not want to take all of the 24 credit hours required.

This makes it difficult for them to complete their majors in fields other than those covered by the 24 credit hours.

Homeschoolers are also facing colleges who refuse to grant them financial aid, even though they are completely eligible. Although there are some state-specific grants and financial aid monies available that are governed by state law, many of these colleges are violating the federal Higher Education Act, which clearly states that any student who "has completed a high school education in a home school setting" is eligible for federal financial aid. The U.S. Department of Education allows for homeschoolers to self-certify their homeschool diplomas. Colleges should ask no further questions and place no additional obstacles before homeschoolers seeking financial aid.

The Home School Legal Defense Association has represented many homeschool graduates who are being refused entry into state colleges. All studies done at this point show that homeschoolers generally score above average on standardized achievement tests in both elementary and secondary levels. Furthermore, studies completed at universities show that homeschool graduates have higher grade point averages than graduates from traditional schools. This demonstrates only one thing: homeschooling works.

Homeschool lobbyist Duane Motley and HSLDA's Chris Klicka are working with Loving Education At Home (LEAH) and their committee formed to deal with college discrimination. We have adopted a three-point strategy for dealing with this college discrimination problem. First, HSLDA is preparing language to be introduced in the legislature to prevent discrimination against homeschoolers in college. Second, Duane Motley has met with the Commissioner of Education and the Chancellor of the Board of Regents to inform him of the current discrimination against homeschoolers. They have both indicated an interest in resolving this problem. LEAH is gathering anecdotal information demonstrating the problem faced by homeschool students seeking to gain admission to New York universities or seek financial aid. The third step will be a grassroots effort to flood the Board of Regents with letters and email urging them to change their college policy for homeschoolers.

We will be updating everyone in the near future regarding when to begin this campaign. In the meantime, the anti-college discrimination legislation will be introduced and negotiations will continue with the Commissioner and the Chancellor of the Board of Regents.

State universities and community colleges in New York should be open to all students, homeschoolers included.