Publication Date: December 2002
DCL ID: G-02-342
Eligibility of Home-School Students - Institutional and Studnet Eligibility
Posted on 12-12-2002
Subject: Eligibility of Home-Schooled Students – Institutional and Student Eligibility
Summary: An institution can admit most home-schooled students as regular students without jeopardizing its eligibility to participate in the Title IV, HEA 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 addresses questions that have been raised concerning the eligibility of home-schooled students to receive aid from the student financial assistance programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), and the circumstances under which the enrollment of "underage" home-schooled students may affect an institution's eligibility to participate in the Title IV, HEA programs. For this purpose, an "underage" home-schooled student is considered to be someone who has completed a secondary school education in a home school setting but who is not yet beyond the age set forth in the compulsory school attendance law of the State in which the institution is located. We understand that these questions have been raised in part because of guidance that appears in the 2001-2002 Student Financial Aid Handbook. The 2002-2003 Handbook contains updated guidance as described in this letter.
Generally, nearly all students who have completed home-schooling can be admitted to institutions as regular students without jeopardizing the institution’s eligibility to participate in the Title IV, HEA programs, and most home-schooled students may receive Title IV, HEA program assistance, assuming they meet the basic eligibility criteria.
However, we have become aware of a potential problem associated with the admission of “underage” home-schooled students because of the differences in the statutory provisions that define “eligible institutions” and “eligible students”.
Under the student eligibility provisions of section 484(d)(3) of the HEA, a student who does not have a high school diploma or GED is eligible to receive Title IV, HEA program assistance if the student "completes a secondary school education in a home school setting that is treated as a home school or private school under State law." Section 484(d)(3) imposes no age limitation on the eligibility of home-schooled students. This change was enacted as part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998.
However, under section 484(a)(1) of the HEA, a student must be enrolled in an eligible institution to receive Title IV, HEA program assistance, and the statute requires that an eligible institution may admit as regular students only students with high school diplomas or GEDs, or students who are beyond the age of compulsory school attendance in the State in which the institution is located.
Specifically, under sections 101 and 102 of the HEA, an institution qualifies as an eligible institution if it satisfies the definitional elements of an "institution of higher education." One of those definitional elements requires an eligible institution to admit as regular [matriculating] students only (1) “persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate” or (2) “persons who are beyond the age of compulsory school attendance in the State in which the institution is located.” [See sections 101(a)(1), 101(b)(2), 102(b)(2), and 102(c)(2) of the HEA]. (Note: For the purposes of this letter, we refer to the "certificate of graduation" reference in the HEA as a "high school diploma" and the "recognized equivalent of such a certificate" reference in the HEA as a GED.)
Because home-schooled students under the HEA are considered not to have high school diplomas or GEDs, an extremely literal, non-harmonious reading of the two HEA sections (institutional eligibility and student eligibility) would produce the illogical result of making institutions ineligible to participate in the Title IV, HEA programs if they enrolled “under age” home schooled students who are eligible to receive Title IV, HEA program assistance. To avoid that result, we must read the two provisions in harmony.
Eligibility of “underage” home-schooled students for Title IV, HEA program assistance
We consider an "underage" home-schooled student to be "beyond the age of compulsory school attendance in the State in which the institution is located," if that State does not consider the student truant once he or she has completed a home-school program; or would not require the student to attend school or continue to be home-schooled. Enrollment of these students would therefore not jeopardize the institution’s eligibility.
With regard to documenting a home-schooled student's completion of secondary school in a home-schooled setting, an institution may accept a home-schooled student's self-certification that he or she completed secondary school in a home school setting, just as it may accept a high school graduate’s self-certification of his or her receipt of a high school diploma. Self-certification of the receipt of a high-school diploma is commonly done through an answer to a question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, because the FAFSA does not include a question regarding home-school completion, institutions may accept such self-certifications in institutional application documents, in letters from the students, or in some other appropriate record.
As a final point, we would like to emphasize that the above discussion relates only to Title IV, HEA program institutional and student eligibility issues. Decisions regarding admission standards and requirements for students, including home-schooled students, are generally matters of institutional policy.
We hope that this information will be helpful to you. If you have any questions you can contact the FSA Customer Service Call Center. The Call Center staff can be reached through any of the following means:
· Via phone Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM (Eastern Time) at 1-800-433-7327. After hours calls will be accepted by an automated voice response system. Callers leaving their names and phone numbers will receive a return call the next business day.
· Via FAX at (202) 260-4199.
· Via e-mail at SFA.Customer.Support@ed.gov.
· Via the Schools Portal on the Internet by going to http://fsa4schools.ed.gov and then clicking on the "Got a Question?" button.
Jeffrey R. Andrade
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Office of Postsecondary Education