The federal Department of Education’s recent move to create unheard of authority over ALL colleges—public and private—has left college administrators scrambling to figure out what new accreditation rules they may be required to follow. If adopted, the proposed regulations would go into effect November 1, 2010.

This is an unprecedented attempt by the federal government to force states to create new agencies to regulate colleges and universities. This additional layer of bureaucracy will require colleges to submit to more regulations and supervision by state and federal officials. Before the 87-page regulations, called “Program Integrity Issues,” were proposed, colleges were typically accredited by independent accrediting agencies. Federal control over colleges has never been attempted before.

Should homeschool families be concerned?
There are several areas of serious concern to homeschoolers: The regulations will include a federal definition of “credit hour,” as well as new procedures to evaluate the validity of a student’s high school diploma for purposes of obtaining federal financial aid.

How will this affect homeschoolers? Will homeschooled students with non-accredited diplomas still be eligible for federal student financial aid?
As soon as I read the new regulations, I contacted HSLDA’s director of federal relations, Will Estrada, and HSLDA’s president, Mike Smith. They explained that homeschoolers have been getting federal financial aid because of an exception clause in the federal law. While this is not the ideal situation and HSLDA would like to change it in the future, this means homeschoolers are exempt from the new federal diploma accreditation regulations.

Be sure to use the self-certifying option
I was greatly relieved to learn that on the FAFSA form, if a homeschooler checks they were “Homeschooled,” then their high school completion is self-certified and nothing else will be required of the homeschooled student or college. However, if the homeschooled student checks “High School Diploma,” he will have to give the name of his high school, and the college will be required to see if the high school is on the “accredited” list.

As long as homeschoolers check “Homeschooled” on the FAFSA form, they should have no problem in applying for federal student financial aid. HEAV will continue to monitor this situation and keep you posted.

If you’d like to learn more about these regulations and what you can do, see this Denver Post article and this HSLDA E-lert.