PHEAA Funding Issues
PHEAA is the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. They award grants to college students. Homeschooled students may, under certain circumstances, need to plan carefully to qualify for this money. On this page, I’ve tried to share as much as I can find out about this issue. I have not gone through this process myself, so please understand that I am still learning. To try to understand the issue better, I have spent several frustrating afternoons on the phone with someone from PHEAA, who was unbelievably unhelpful. Frankly, I’m still not sure I’ve got it right. In addition, the home education law underwent significant changes in October of 2014. Before making a decision about the path that is right for you, please double-check the info on this page with appropriate sources. If you have feedback or input for this page, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When planning for the high school years, homeschoolers in PA have many options available. See my Homeschooling High School page for lots of information and links.
Before you decide on what, if any, kind of diploma your child will get, you will probably want to consider the issue of PHEAA funding for college. Even if a student has been accepted to college without a high school diploma, PHEAA requires proof that they have completed high school in order to qualify for financial aid. There are several ways you can meet this requirement.
I have attempted to provide information below to help you to determine which method of meeting this requirement will work best for your family. This is a complex issue, and my summary here is just that – a summary of my current understanding of the issue. You’ll want to consult the PHEAA web site -– start at PHEAA FAQ’S -- to see how your situation fits in with their regulations. This is especially true if your student is not getting a supervisor-awarded/evaluator-signed diploma, not using a PA diploma program, and not getting a GED, or if you know your student will be going to an out-of-state college (not all of which are eligible for PHEAA funding anyway).
Note that all of this is generally an issue only for the freshman year. Students who have completed one year (30 semester hours) of college work, and who are age 18 or older, can get a Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma (equivalent to a GED) from the state, without taking the GED test, which will qualify them for PHEAA funding for subsequent college classes. Note also that grants are based on financial need – if you are unlikely to be awarded a grant based on your financial situation, you may not need to be concerned about the PHEAA guidelines. And note that this issue is about student grants, not student loans.
Ways to meet the diploma requirement:
Briefly, in order to qualify for financial aid from PHEAA for their freshman year of college, students need one of the following:
Again, check with PHEAA for details and to be sure you have the most up-to-date information! You may encounter problems with some of these – read on!
In practice, the following folks SHOULD NOT generally have a problem getting PHEAA money:
Homeschooled students who have a supervisor-awarded, evaluator-signed diploma. Because of the October 2014 changes to the home education law, PHEAA should accept . 2) The student must have completed all the graduation requirements in the home education law, while enrolled in a home education program that is in compliance with the home ed law. 3) The diploma must be awarded to the student on a standardized form, available on the PDE's website. Because this is a new option, there may be glitches along the way. If you encounter problems with this option, contact the PDE, who should be able to help you straighten them out.
Students who use one
of the PA diploma programs.
Students who use a PA public cyber-charter school.
In practice, the following folks MAY have a problem getting PHEAA money:
Students who get a
Students who have completed a year of college.
Students who ask for
their superintendent’s signature.
"Applicants must be high school graduates to qualify for Pennsylvania State Grant aid. Students in home education programs accredited by an agency approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) or students must [sic*] submit certification from the appropriate local Pennsylvania school official that their education is in compliance with the provisions of 24 P. S. 13-1327.1 are considered graduates of an approved high school for Pennsylvania State Grant purposes.
I certify that the home education program of the above-referenced student is in compliance with the provisions in 24 P.S. 13-1327.1
Signature of Superintendent (or designee)”
In most of the 501 districts, for most families, this is very simple to do, in others it may be a hassle. The advantage to this approach is that it is free, and it doesn’t require participation in a diploma program. In a conversation in April of '09, Sarah Pearce at the PDE reported that many superintendents will sign, and that she can sometimes, but not always, persuade reluctant ones to do so. However, she said that the superintendent is NOT required to sign the form if they do not want to. I don’t have a good sense of how often it goes smoothly and how often it doesn’t. Here are several points to consider:
However, be aware that a new superintendent may be hired at any time. This can, without notice, change the likelihood of a home educated student getting a signature.It’s a good idea to try to find out in advance if your super will sign.
You could try to argue that you complied with 24 P. S. 13-1327.1 when you were required to do so.Note that the superintendent is probably unlikely to sign if you have stopped registering with the district at age 17, before graduation, since you are no longer legally a home educated student.
In general, in going this route the homeschooler is relying on someone who may know very little about homeschooling, and who may or may not have respect for it, to give them a stamp of approval.
graduation requirements in 24 P. S. 13-1327.1. If it does, or if the superintendent thinks it does, the issue becomes more complex. For example, the superintendent may or may not agree with the homeschool supervisor’s standards as to what constitutes, say, a “year of English”, and therefore the superintendent may choose not to accept some of the homeschooler’s credits.It is unclear to me whether certification of compliance with the home education law implies certification of compliance with the
Again, since the October 2014 change to the home education law, in most cases it may be a better choice to use a high school diploma, awarded by the supervisor of the student's home education program, signed by the student's twelfth grade evaluator in confirmation of the student's suitability for graduation. If you have trouble going this route, you may wish to talk to the PDE (see my PDE page), or one of the people mentioned above.
graduates who have a diploma from a secondary school not on PHEAA’s list.
Homeschoolers who are using the PA private tutor law, who are homeschooling underground, or who are using another alternative to the PA home ed law.
Folks in districts
that refuse to accept portfolios from homeschoolers over 17.
The following folks ARE LIKELY TO have a problem getting PHEAA money:
Homeschooled students who have ONLY a parent-created transcript/diploma (not a superisor-issued, evaluator-signed diploma). Parents have always had the option of creating their own "home brewed", parent-created diploma for their students, though PHEAA did not accept these as high school diplomas for the purpose of eligibility for PHEAA college funding. Now, because of the October 2014 changes to the home education law, PHEAA will accept . 2) The student must have completed all the graduation requirements in the home education law, while enrolled in a home education program that is in compliance with the home ed law. 3) The diploma must be awarded to the student on a standardized form, available on the PDE's website. If the parent-created diploma does not meet these requirements, there may be a problem qualifying for PHEAA funding.
Out of state homeschool graduates
Homeschoolers who do not comply with Pennsylvania’s laws regarding home education
Q: I am attempting to fill out the PHEAA form sent to my son who will be attending college next year. Question 6 and 7 ask for the name of the high school and date graduating. The directions go on to further state if you are home educated to leave that blank but it was my understanding that by graduating with a PA Homeschoolers diploma [one of the PA diploma programs] my son would be eligible for PHEAA assistance. My question is do I leave it blank as a home educator or do I fill in something else since he will have a PA Homeschoolers diploma?