This post reviews Kellie Sorey and Molly H. Duggan, “Homeschoolers Entering Community Colleges: Perceptions of Admission Officers” in Journal of College Admission (Summer 2008): 22-28
Sorey, the Registrar at Tidewater Community College in Virginia, and Duggan, Assistant Professor of Community College Leadership at Old Dominion, here report the results of a survey of admissions officers in one state that seeks to determine their attitudes toward homeschooled applicants as well as any special admissions requirements or programs for homeschoolers their institutions might have.
Sorey and Duggan begin with a brief historical orientation. They describe how the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) successfully lobbied for the amendment of the Higher Education Act in 1998 such that now colleges and universities receiving Federal aid may not require admitted homeschoolers to take any tests not required of other students. Homeschoolers not yet admitted, however are not protected by law in the same way, though Congress has advised institutions of higher education against requiring extra tests (such as the GED or SAT II) of homeschoolers, urging them to be satisfied with the usual SAT or ACT scores. But this poses problems for community colleges, who typically do not require such scores for admission. How then should community colleges determine whether homeschooled applicants are ready for school, especially if they are under 18?
To answer this question and to get a sense of what Community Colleges are doing with homeschooled applicants, Sorey and Duggan surveyed every admission officer in every community college in “a Mid-Atlantic state” (Virginia I presume) to determine: 1. to what extent community colleges have formal policies governing homeschooled applicants, 2. what community college admissions officers think of homeschoolers, and 3. what sort of programs for homeschoolers community colleges might provide.
Before sharing their results, Sorey and Duggan summarize the few other studies that have been done on homeschoolers at community colleges and other institutions of higher education. All have shown homeschoolers performing at least as well as and often better than their traditionally-schooled peers. They reveal that over time admissions officer attitudes toward homeschooled applicants have grown more positive and procedures for admission more explicit, though it seems that community colleges lag behind other institutions here.
Sorey and Duggan mailed out 23 surveys and got 12 back, a 52% return rate. Here is what they found:
Half of the respondents said their school had a formal policy for admitting homeschoolers. Some of the official policies required only self-reporting data from the homeschooler’s family. Some required some sort of third-party high school diploma or transcript. Others required GED or SAT scores. Others whose schools do not have set documention requirements said they would require a meeting with an on-campus figure like a dean of student services or admission officer.
As for attitudes, every admissions officer surveyed expected homeschooled applicants to do as well or better than other students at their institution. 64% believed 18 year old homeschoolers academically prepared for college, and 55% believed they were socially prepared. But only 36% believed underaged homeschoolers academically prepared, and only 27% believed they were socially prepared. Finally, 46% believed their job was more difficult when assessing homeschooled applicants given the lack of high school transcript for such students.
As for special programs or services, 73% said their schools had no special programs for homeschooled students either before or after admission. Those few who did provide something usually offered special orientations or one-on-one counseling with homeschooled applicants and their parents.
The authors conclude by noting that they found no evidence of bias against homeschooled applicants among admissions officers. They encourage community colleges to work toward explicit and standardized admissions procedures for homeschoolers, suggesting that homeschoolers be offered special open house opportunities to get to know the school and some sort of “credit evaluation form” homeschoolers who don’t have official transcripts could fill out to show what they have learned in their homeschool.
For me, the best part of this study was its context statement and brief review of other research on the topic. The authors’ own survey data, consisting of only 12 responses from admissions officers in only one state, isn’t really large enough or diverse enough to give the results a lot of weight. That being said, it is at least a step in the right direction to have even this small data set that tells us both that admissions officers have a pretty high view of homeschooled applicants in general and that many community colleges lack any sort of uniform or carefully crafted policy for dealing with homeschooled applicants or students.