Home-school advocates are challenging an apparent bait and switch by Baylor University, saying it “smacks of discrimination.”
After accepting, and even awarding scholarships, to home-school graduates, the Waco, Texas, university is now telling them they must be 18 years of age or get a GED certificate in order to be enrolled this fall. The ill-timed policy reversal comes too late for some to make other plans, leaving them in limbo.
“I think there’s been a mistake,” Connie Miller tells WorldNetDaily. “I’m disappointed on Jennifer’s behalf. She’s wanted to go to Baylor since age six. She’s pretty disappointed.”
The Texas parent has home-schooled her daughter, Jennifer, for the last nine years. Jennifer was admitted to Baylor this spring.
“We paid the deposit for enrollment, registered for orientation week and she has already been assigned a roommate.” But according to Miller, Baylor contacted her in May, explaining that school administrators were “putting new members into the computer, and the computer spit Jennifer out because she’s aged 16.”
Miller was then told that Jennifer must take the General Education Development test in order to attend the university in the fall. Texas, however, requires GED testers to be 17 years of age.
After exchanging letters with Baylor, the Millers have decided to wait and enroll Jennifer in the spring semester after she turns 17.
Guy Woloszyn isn’t taking Baylor’s bait and switch as lightly: “You’ve already admitted him, how can you revoke him?” he asked the admission official who contacted him weeks after their son’s acceptance to inform the family of the age and GED requirement. Like Jennifer, 17-year-old Alec Woloszyn is too young to be able to take the GED, according to Wisconsin law.
After earning acceptance to Baylor, Alec declined acceptance – and even a scholarship – to three other colleges and quit his job at a radio station to prepare for his fall enrollment. He currently is on a mission in Russia and is unaware that his Baylor admission has effectively been revoked. It is too late to apply to other schools.
“I feel this is a greed issue and a money issue,” Guy Woloszyn tells WorldNetDaily, “Their ethics smell. And their Christian principles aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.”
Baylor bills itself as “the largest Baptist university in the world” with a vision of becoming “the foremost university in the world committed to excellence in Christian higher education,” according to the school’s website.
“We’re a Baptist school with a Christian heritage but we follow Caesar’s rules; we render unto Caesar,” says Charlie Beckenhauer, associate general counsel for Baylor. “We’re applying federal law. This isn’t Baylor’s policy.”
According to Beckenhauer, Baylor is merely trying to adhere to federal regulations and state law in accordance with Title IV of the Higher Education Act and its amendments. A statement released by Baylor lists the federal criteria:
“Under these federal laws, Baylor may admit as regular students only those persons who:
“have a high-school diploma, or
“have the equivalent of a high-school diploma, or
“are beyond the age of compulsory school attendance in the state in which the institution is physically located.”
Beckenhauer explains that in the absence of a high-school diploma, as is the case with home-school graduates, state laws kick in. But with states that don’t recognize home-school graduates, as is the case with Texas and Wisconsin, Baylor now requires a GED.
Beckenhauer believes the university risks losing its institutional eligibility for federal funding, and possible administrative penalties, if it fails to strictly adhere to these criteria.
“We’re not rejecting the quality of private and home-schooled graduates; it’s simply a documentation and age issue,” says Beckenhauer.
Title IV, Higher Education Act was adopted in 1965. And, according to Baylor’s statement, “over the past five years, Baylor has admitted more than 30 home-schooled students to the university and continues to do so. …”
When asked why the reinterpretation of Title IV was happening now, Beckenhauer explained that financial-aid auditors had warned them to “be careful” in applying the rule. Beckenhauer is seeking clarification from the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas attorney general on the matter.
Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition, contends Baylor’s policy reversal ahead of this clarification is “premature” and calls Baylor’s belated age and GED requirements an “artificial bureaucratic hurdle.”
“It’s strange to the casual observer that while the trend is towards liberalizing standards to accommodate home-schoolers, Baylor is bucking the trend. It smacks of discrimination,” says Lambert, who points out that Rice University recently changed its policy to better accommodate home-school graduates.
“It’s the law that discriminates. We’re just enforcing the law,” responds Beckenhauer.
Baylor’s rejection of home-schoolers contrasts with other private universities in Texas, such as Dallas Baptist and Texas Christian University.
It also comes despite the exemplary performance of home-schoolers on standard achievement tests and in academic competitions. In the 2000 Scripps-Howard national spelling bee, home-educated students took first, second and third place. Home-schoolers also placed first and second in the 1999 and 2000 National Geographic Society geography bees, respectively.
Home-school students have scored highest on the ACT for three years in a row. While the average composite score of American high-school students taking the American College Testing Program exam was 21, home-schooled teens scored 22.8 on the scale of 36.
“What you can say about the home-schoolers from that average composite score is that this group of home-schooled kids are well-prepared, or reasonably well-prepared, for college,” Kelley Hayden, a spokesman for ACT, told WorldNetDaily.
Research shows that high achievement on the ACT strongly indicates a “greater likelihood of success in college,” according to ACT officials. Success on the ACT test also reveals that the courses taken by high-school students to prepare for college have been effective.
“Home educators and students should be proud of their accomplishments, and they should be encouraged by [this] recognition. …” stated Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., in announcing a U.S. House of Representatives resolution honoring home-school families last fall.
Lambert has contacted congressional representatives to lobby for their intervention.
Meanwhile, Woloszyn continues to negotiate with Baylor to try to get his son admitted for the fall, but he fears Baylor has dug its heels in on the matter. Woloszyn says Beckenhauer has told him, “We’ve weighed the ramifications and the downside. We are determined to follow the law.”
“We’re concerned [Alec] will be jaundiced about it and bitter,” worries Woloszyn. “The message you’re sending to my son is Christians don’t practice what they preach. That’s a dangerous message to send young people these days.”