This post reviews Perry Haan and Cam Cruickshank, “Marketing Colleges to Home-Schooled Students” in Journal of Marketing for Higher Education 16, no. 2 (2006): 25-43.
Haan and Cruickshank, both affiliated with Tiffin University in Ohio, here orient college administrators to the homeschooling movement and make a case for increased recruitment from its ranks as a viable strategy for enrollment growth.
The authors begin with a summary of the typical issues covered in homeschooling articles: homeschooling’s history, demography, parental motivations, and the socialization question. They rely on Brian Ray, Isabel Lyman, Lawrence Rudner, and many other studies from the late 1990s and early 2000s, acknowledging in one paragraph that such studies don’t typically meet the standards of rigorous social science, but using them just the same.
For example, when making the case for increased attention by colleges to the homeschool population, the authors, citing Ray, claim that “72.4 percent of students in the 18-24 age group who were homeschooled have taken some college courses. This compares with 46.2 percent of the rest of the population…” Claims like this are classic examples of homeschooling research’s tendency to compare a self-selecting sample of middle class white students with national populations that include much larger percentages of poor, minority, and single-parent children. Of course such comparisons make homeschoolers look good, but they aren’t representative of all homeschoolers. If one is limited to such data, a better approach would be to control for variables like family income, race, and parent educational attainment level when making comparisons with the general population. When this is done (which is extremely rare), homeschoolers usually come out looking more average on things like standardized tests and college matriculation.
After explaining the homeschooling movement, Haan and Cruickshank summarize current federal law on homeschooling and higher education, noting the 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act (penned, by the way, by HSLDA’s Chris Klicka) that freed homeschoolers from having to take the GED or other tests not required of other applicants and made it easier for them to get financial aid. Despite the new laws, some colleges continue to make it more difficult for homeschooled applicants to apply. As such, HSLDA’s National Center for Home Education has categorized colleges based on how homeschooler-friendly they are. Haan and Cruickshank summarize the results.
Finally, Haan and Cruickshank offer recommendations for colleges trying to better market themselves to homeschoolers. They urge colleges to collaborate with the HSLDA-sponsored National Center for Home Education and Brian Ray’s National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) to find out more about the homeschool population in their regions. They suggest providing information explicitly targeted to homeschoolers on the college’s web page and perhaps open house days organized specially for homeschoolers. Admissions staff should be trained how to respond to homeschoolers and informed of current federal law. College students who were themselves homeschooled should be tapped for jobs in the admissions office, and the college should encourage and advertise student organizations that offer support to homeschooled students.
The authors conclude by calling for more research to better understand the homeschooled child’s experience in college. They acknowledge here at the end that much of the research they have cited is “anecdotal and potentially biased” and hope that in the future more rigorous research will give us a better sense of why homeschoolers choose specific colleges and how they perform once they arrive.
I couldn’t agree more with the last few paragraphs of this article. Relying as heavily as it does on HSLDA’s reports and research gives the article an advocacy-type vibe that I don’t think its authors intended. Haan and Cruickshank here offer no new research of their own but merely summarize what has come before, and a quick glance through their bibliography reveals that the vast majority of their references come from HSLDA or one of its affiliates. The interface of homeschooling and higher education is a field ripe for research, and it is the sort of thing that ought to be attractive to scholars since it could be done right on campus. Yet aside from a spate of articles in 2004 in the Journal of College Admissions, very little work has been done on homeschooling and higher ed topics. One hopes that with increasing numbers of homeschooled students attending colleges and universities, more rigorous studies will soon be forthcoming.