PHEAA Funding Issues
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PHEAA is the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. They award grants to college students. Homeschooled students may, under certain circumstances, have difficulty qualifying 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. 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
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 you have been accepted to college without a high school diploma, PHEAA requires proof that you have completed high school in order to qualify for financial aid. According to PHEAA policy, a “home-brewed” transcript/diploma is not acceptable. Many PA homeschoolers are not happy about this situation, and feel that it forces them to obtain (and in some cases pay for) documentation that they would not otherwise need.
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 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. 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: 1) a diploma from a PA diploma program, 2) a GED, 3) the superintendent’s signature certifying that their home education complies with the Home Education law, 4) 30 college credits, or 5) a diploma from a PHEAA-approved high school. (The first four options are the ones most widely used by homeschoolers – check PHEAA’s web site for details, please!) You may encounter problems with some of these – read on!
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)”
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?