Trade schools to homeschoolers: Access denied
A Christian legal group is fighting the proliferating trend of trade schools rejecting applications of high school graduates — just because they were homeschooled.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has recently taken aim at recurring situations where homeschoolers are overtly denied access to trade schools across America because their high school diplomas do not come from traditional public or private schools.
“A homeschool graduate is accepted into a cosmetology or vocational school — but then, like a bolt from above, the admissions office reverses course,” HSLDA Director of Federal Relations William A. Estrada points out. “Officials tell the applicant that the school cannot accept homeschoolers.”
Estrada goes on to note that for no reason — other than that they are homeschooled — homeschool graduates are discriminated against and required to go above and beyond the prerequisites by which conventional students are held.
“Sometimes this notification is accompanied by a stipulation that if the homeschool graduate takes the GED, the school will be able to accept the student,” the homeschool advocate explains. “Other times the rejection is final.”
HSLDA asserts that many parents and students are amazed at how most colleges and universities from coast to coast actively recruit and accept homeschool graduates — while most vocational schools routinely deny them acceptance. The nonprofit legal organization gives a couple reasons for the anomaly.
“Vocational schools are often very small,” HSLDA attorneys informed. “They may have never seen a homeschool graduate before. As a result, they default to ‘homeschoolers cannot be accepted.’”
The Christian group based in Purcellville, Virginia, also lists fear of the federal government as another reason why trade schools often shun homeschool graduates.
“Vocational schools are more likely to be audited for compliance with federal higher education laws,” the legal experts continued. “They’re worried that if they accept a homeschooler who doesn’t have the documentation of a public school graduate, it could cost the vocational school its accreditation.”
Turning the tide?
Despite the two obstacles, former homeschoolers have witnessed improved results of late when applying to trade schools.
“Over the last few years, [HSLDA] lawyers have handled a rising number of calls from homeschool graduates who have been turned away from vocational or cosmetology schools,” Estrada said. “And through our work to prevent discrimination against homeschoolers, we have succeeded in the vast majority of cases. Thanks to [our] advocacy, numerous homeschool graduates have been able to pursue their chosen career.”
But it is noted that attorneys still face stiff challenges when it comes to trade schools, as HSLDA has not won every legal battle when representing homeschoolers.
“Unlike community colleges and universities, nearly all cosmetology and vocational schools are privately run,” Estrada added. “That means they can set their own admission policies, and some of them have chosen to discriminate against homeschoolers. We have run across a handful of these schools that absolutely refuse to accept homeschool graduates.”
He mentioned one instance when the president of a cosmetology school scorned an HSLDA attorney for challenging his restrictive policy singling out homeschoolers.
“I will not let a homeschool graduate into my school unless he or she has a GED,” the president asserted when questioned. “My brother had a GED, and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for a homeschool graduate.”
Estrada then quoted the line of questioning HSLDA attorneys present to cosmetology and vocational education school officials:
“Why are you refusing to let a homeschool graduate enroll?” the homeschool layers ask. “Is it because of your own internal policies? Or is it because you are worried about your accreditation if you let a homeschool graduate receive federal student aid?”
Hitting the main concern head-on
To stem the tide of resistance to homeschoolers, HSLDA has worked for two decades to ease fears over accreditation — in order to ensure that homeschoolers are treated fairly by federal higher education laws.
“[W]e are able to show them that homeschoolers are eligible for federal student aid,” Estrada stressed, leading homeschoolers to HSLDA’s resource page for more details. “The U.S. Department of Education has made it crystal clear that not only are homeschoolers eligible for federal student aid, they do not need a GED.”
The director also points out that HSLDA attorneys are now working closely with associations that accredit cosmetology and vocational schools — so the homeschoolers are given a fair shot when applying.
“One of the largest in the nation is the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS), and we have built a good relationship with their leadership team,” Estrada assured. “We are working with NACCAS and the cosmetology or vocational schools accredited by them to eliminate discrimination against homeschool graduates, and we are grateful for the work of NACCAS to help educate these schools that homeschoolers are great students who should be accepted with open arms.”
The homeschool advocate ended by giving some words of advice for homeschool educators.
“When applying to a cosmetology or vocational school, your student should provide a parent-issued high school diploma, a high school transcript, and evidence of compliance with your state’s homeschool law,” Estrada recommends. “If the school insists that your child cannot be admitted or that they need to take the GED, please contact HSLDA immediately [for legal advice].”