At first glance, UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore Charissa Lloyd might seem like a typical college student. Her schedule is crammed with campus activities — everything from participating in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship to serving on the staff of Rival Magazine. She enjoys academics, too, and hopes to one day become a social worker involved in pro-life causes.
But at least one aspect makes Lloyd unique from most of her classmates: By the time she graduated from high school in 2005, she had already accumulated 60 credit hours and a 4.0 GPA from a local community college. What gave her the flexibility to pursue college-level courses while still in school? Another attribute differentiates her from most other students: She was homeschooled from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
With the increasing number of parents pulling their children out of traditional public schools in favor of home education, Lloyd’s success story is quickly becoming commonplace. Each year, colleges and universities across the nation enroll an increasing number of home-school graduates. According to research conducted by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, 75 percent of all homeschool graduates have at least some college experience, compared to about 50 percent in the general population.
That trend is indicative of the higher academic and moral values that homeschool students leave home with, according to Christopher Klicka, senior counsel for the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
“Homeschoolers are head and shoulders above the norm because they have mastered the tools of learning,” Klicka said. “They tend to really understand how to write and read and do math. You throw in self-discipline and good character, and you can apply yourself to just about any subject that there is at the college level, even if you didn’t have access to the fancy laboratories and the other equipment that they have in the public schools.”
A major concern among home-school families in the early 1980s was that colleges would refuse to admit home-educated graduates later in life, but today that fear has been “tremendously diminished,” Klicka said, because universities no longer block homeschool graduates.
“They are all receiving home-schoolers with open arms,” he said.
Many parents and home education experts agree that homeschool graduates are not only surviving but thriving in higher education. Spencer and Debbie Mason of Charlotte have two homeschool graduates in the university system. One child graduated with a four-year degree from Grove City College in Pennsylvania and now attends Regent University School of Law; the other is enrolled as a junior at North Carolina State University and plans to begin work on his master’s degree next year.
Spencer Mason said that it’s no longer necessary to be concerned about homeschool graduates being turned down by colleges. “There are some colleges that actually have admissions counselors that specialize in homeschoolers,” Mason said. “You’ll find a lot of the Ivy League and tier-one colleges are very open to homeschoolers coming.”
Hal Young, education vice president for North Carolinians for Home Education, said that some Ivy League schools are actually admitting homeschool graduates at a higher percentage than students in the general population. “A lot of colleges are saying that [homeschoolers] are a good population to pursue,” he said. “They’ve had positive results dealing with home-educated students, and so they actively go out and look for them.”
More college Web sites are employing separate pages specifically designed for home-school applicants, and some private colleges in the state are actively recruiting, Young said.
Klicka, who has advocated for the legal rights of home-school families for 21 years, said representatives from colleges are appearing at home-school conventions to recruit. Given home education’s academic track record, universities view homeschool graduates as a “good risk,” Klicka said.
One of the most common objections levied against home education is that homeschool students lack exposure to different social settings, but Young said that graduates integrate well into the campus environment. “Homeschooling is individual, but it’s not isolated,” he said. “Most homeschoolers that we hear from are pretty well networked in support groups, church activities, Scouting programs, and sports programs…so when they get to the college campuses where there are other groups around, that’s just another day in life.”
Charissa’s mother, Teresa Lloyd, said that her daughter is actually “over-involved” in campus activities. “When I was in college, I was ready to get out of the dorms, but [Charissa] has enjoyed that,” Lloyd said. “She really sees it as an opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives there, and it’s such a big campus that she has been able to find some like-minded individuals and people who share her interests.”
Academically, several universities have conducted internal research and discovered that homeschool graduates have GPAs above the college average, Klicka said. One four-year study conducted by Drs. Rhonda Galloway and Joe Sutton comparing homeschool college students with private and public school students found that homeschoolers ranked first in 10 out of 12 academic indicators.
Such research, mixed with “an unbroken track record” of success on achievement tests including the SAT, causes colleges to accept home-school graduates, Klicka said.
Today, college admission departments by and large are no longer “putting up barriers” for homeschool graduates, Young said. “Some have in the past required additional testing simply to validate the kind of grade that students had on their transcripts, but if a student has college work from a community college or some other kind of outside class, that would tend to validate the transcript that is created by the parents,” he said.
Klicka said that the last barrier was torn down when Congress passed the Higher Education Act in 1997. Discrimination was fairly common 10 years ago, Klicka said, but now it is as “rare as a comet.”
“We’ve had other issues that have popped up from time to time with discrimination, but pretty much it just takes a phone call, a little bit of persuasion, and a little bit of facts and figures, and the colleges say we don’t need to keep this up,” Klicka said.
David N. Bass is a contributing editor of Carolina Journal.