A Massachusetts homeschool graduate now in his junior year of college nearly had his education derailed because of a dispute over his high school credentials.

Gabriel Santospago, a history major working toward a career in either archaeology or law, was looking to transfer to a school that seemed a better all-around fit.

A former classmate at Salem State University recommended Framingham State University for several reasons. It was closer to home, affordable, and, said Gabriel, “I discovered they offered more of the courses I needed for the degree I was looking for, plus their learning center had more to offer in assistance for my disabilities.”

Not Approved

There was one snag. Unlike the other two colleges Gabriel had attended, admissions officers at Framingham State were apparently unfamiliar with homeschoolers.

Gabriel’s mother Michelle learned this unfortunate fact when she called the admissions office the week before new student orientation and discovered Gabriel’s application still had not been approved.

She spoke to the head of the department, who insisted he could not accept Gabriel’s high school transcripts because they had been signed by his parents. The officer suggested Michelle instead contact her local public school district and request a diploma.

That’s when the Santospagos contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.

Explaining the Law

Realizing that Gabriel risked missing an entire semester of college, HSLDA attorney Dan Beasley quickly reached out to Framingham State officials.

Beasley explained to the college that although Massachusetts law permits public school superintendents to review and approve home instruction plans, these officials are not empowered to issue homeschool diplomas. That right is reserved for the parents who provided a homeschool program in accordance with Massachusetts law.

He wrote: “This allows them to issue a legally valid high school diploma to any of their children who complete their school’s graduation requirements.”

It’s a right the Santospagos have exercised several times. They not only taught Gabriel from kindergarten through high school graduation, but did the same for his three older siblings.

To their credit, Framingham State responded quickly. The day after hearing from Beasley, admissions officers informed Gabriel that he was enrolled.

Close Call

Gabriel said the turnaround spared him a setback.

“I ran into too many issues at Salem State in the year and a half I attended,” he explained. Had he not been accepted into Framingham, “I would have had to stay to complete my bachelor’s degree or spend more money per year to go back to Dean College.”

Beasley said that he was very happy to help a homeschool graduate, though he wishes that officials would improve their understanding of the law.

“This was purely a bureaucratic problem,” said Beasley. “It wasn’t created by any lack of qualification on the part of the student.”

He added: “There are students we never hear from who may have had to change their careers or education plans because their homeschool credentials, though perfectly valid, come under question. That’s why HSLDA is engaged in broader efforts to level the playing field for homeschool graduates. We’re working with legislatures to pass laws stating that homeschool diplomas and transcripts are sufficient to document a student’s completion of a secondary education.”