While Texas homeschools often field inquiries from public school officials, social service workers, law enforcement officials, and employers who question their legitimacy, graduates are finding most colleges and universities eagerly accept them, and some are actively recruiting them.
The colleges’ newfound appreciation of homeschooled students is due in part to the efforts of a grassroots organization founded in 1986. The Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) was formed to advocate for homeschooled students’ rights after the Texas Education Agency (TEA) began seeking criminal prosecution for truancy against 100 homeschooling families statewide in 1985.
Homeschool parents responded with a class-action lawsuit against every school district in Texas–all 1,060 of them. The case progressed all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, where justices ruled in 1994 that Texas homeschools legally could operate as private schools, which have no compulsory attendance requirements, as long as they were “conducted in a bona fide manner using a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, math and a course in good citizenship.”
But state-supported colleges and universities continued to discriminate against homeschooled applicants until 2003, when the Texas legislature passed a law forcing them to stop. Now, a new generation of homeschooled graduates is reaping the benefits.
Fighting for Equality
THSC serves as a liaison between colleges and universities and the homeschooling community. Homeschooled students receive guidance in developing transcripts and meeting the admissions requirements for Texas colleges and universities, while admissions offices are informed of legal requirements regarding admission of homeschooled students.
Obtaining federal financial aid was overly cumbersome for homeschooled students until recently. In 1998, Congress clarified the law regarding federal financial aid, stating homeschool graduates were eligible for aid without having to take an additional test other applicants were not required to take.
Prior to 2003, the college admissions process was likewise difficult for homeschooled students. Many colleges required homeschooled students to achieve higher SAT or ACT scores than public high school graduates. Others required homeschooled students to write essays not required of other applicants, THSC President Tim Lambert said.
“We worked for six years through three legislative sessions just to amend the code to stop colleges from discriminating against homeschool students in the admissions process,” Lambert said.
Paving the Way
Though Stephen Swanson was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, he recalled no great difficulties in being admitted to Oklahoma Christian University, where he is a sophomore. His college routine, he said, is similar to what he experienced in homeschooling. Over the past few years, he has studied on his own, using a self-guided approach that has served him well in college.
“The hardest thing for me was exercising the discipline I learned through homeschooling to meet the challenge of a heavier workload at college,” Swanson said. “I seek to ‘just say no’ to outside activities when they conflict with my studies. My drive to excel away from home at college is due to my parents’ emphasis on character development. My faith-based homeschool education gives me incentive to use wisely the abilities and opportunities God has given me.”
Lubbock Christian University freshman Thomas Kennedy was homeschooled for nine years. He said his professors are all aware he is a homeschool graduate, and they have received him well so far. “One of my professors told me that he looks to homeschool students in his classroom to pave the way and set the pace for the classroom,” he said, adding that being homeschooled has made him a lifelong learner. “I have chosen to continue my education after undergraduate school because I like school.”
Adjusting to Campus Life
Isaac Garcia, homeschooled throughout his K-12 years in Texas, is a senior at Lubbock Christian University majoring in computer information systems. Garcia said the hardships other homeschoolers faced before him made the way easier for him.
“Because of the efforts of those before me to ease the process for homeschoolers to be admitted to college, I had no extra requirements to be accepted other than to demonstrate competence on the ACT or SAT,” he said. “I have an inner desire instilled in me by my homeschool teachers, in this case my parents, to work hard in college and to aim high, and with God’s help I will accomplish anything I set my mind to.”
Craig Barnes, a Tarrant County Community College sophomore, was homeschooled in Texas from 7th through 12th grade. He said he has been tested in keeping up with the much faster pace required by his college instructors, but he noted the admissions process was simple. He merely mailed his application along with copies of his transcripts and SAT scores, just as his peers from public schools must do.
Most colleges and universities have realized homeschooled students in general are an asset to the campus, THSC President Lambert said. Texas homeschool graduates as a group score significantly higher than the state average on SAT and ACT tests.
Connie Sadowski ([email protected]) is director of the Education Options Resource Center at the Austin CEO Foundation.
For more information …
For more information on homeschooling in Texas, visit the Web site of the Texas Home School Coalition at http://www.thsc.org.
Additional information on homeschooling is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and choose the topic/subtopic combination Education/Home Schooling.