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Arizona Homeschoolers, AIMS test, and ASU Regents’ Scholarship: Current status

HOMESCHOOLERS, ASU ADMISSIONS AND THE AIMS SCHOLARSHIP 

Background:  In 1999, a bill passed the Arizona state legislature and was signed into law to give homeschooled students the opportunity to have access to the Regents’ Scholarship at the state universities, effective fall of 2000.  The law was called Bethany’s Law, in honor of a homeschooled student Bethany Lewis who wrote the bill in her Youth and Government program.  The following year, it passed through state legislature to become ARS. 15-1646. 

The Regents’ Scholarship is a merit-based full-tuition waiver at the state universities that had been available only to public and private high school students who were in the top 2% of their graduating classes.  (This number was changed at some point to the top 5%).  Homeschoolers were of course previously not eligible since they have no class rank.  Bethany’s law made the provision for homeschoolers to qualify for the scholarship based on SAT or ACT test scores in the 90th %ile. 

Here is the current wording of the statute. 

ARS. 15-1646. Board of regents and university scholarships  ABOR policy 4-317 

The state public universities under the jurisdiction of the Arizona board of regents shall establish policies which assure fair and equitable access by Arizona students from public, private, charter and home schools to scholarships, including tuition waivers, which are issued solely on the basis of academic merit and for which the universities establish and administer fair and equitable selection criteria. The universities under the jurisdiction of the Arizona board of regents shall report annually to the board information including the number of such scholarships issued on the basis of academic merit to students from public, private, charter and home schools. 

In 2005, effective fall 2006, the Board of Regents changed the policy to provide for students who excelled at the AIMS test to qualify for the funding.  Apparently, the homeschool provision was dropped at that time, since home educated students were specifically declared ineligible for the AIMS Scholarship.  (Since the name was changed, it was not immediately apparent that this was indeed the same award).  No law was changed, and technically, the homeschool portion should not have been eradicated without some legal action. 

With the budget crunch in the spring of 2009, the Board of Regents made a move to eliminate this scholarship totally.  There was such a public outcry that the funding was maintained for all who were currently in the system, and for the 2009 and 2010 graduating classes who would have already taken the AIMS tests and qualified.  The parameters for the class of 2011 and beyond are still being worked out. 

Homeschooled students were brought back into the picture after several meetings with Arizona Families for Home Education, the Board of Regents and State Senator Huppenthal from Mesa.  Beginning with the class of 2009, these students are required to take the AIMS test if they wish to be certified for the Regents’/AIMS scholarship, even though AFHE and Senator Huppenthal tried to push to reinstate the policy as it had been when Bethany’s Law was passed. 

Current status and questions:  

  • In order to qualify for the Regents’/AIMS funds, students must pass all sections of the AIMS test by the spring of their junior year.  This means that the class of 2009 would have had to pass by April of 2008.  This group of homeschoolers is effectively eliminated from the possibility of being certified since they were not eligible at that time to get the scholarship.  The class of 2010 would have had to pass by April of 2009, again prior to the policy decision being made by the Board of Regents.  Since the status for the class of 2011 is unknown, (and in fact the status of the AIMS test in general is in question by the Department of Education), it seems rather demeaning to say home educated teens are included for 2009 and 2010.
  • The ABOR is deciding the fate of this scholarship for the class or 2011.  It could remain the same, be eliminated altogether, or a two-tier approach could be instituted.  Students who pass and exceed the standards of AIMS by the spring of the 10th grade year could be awarded the full tuition waiver, and those who exceed by the spring of the 11th grade year could be given a partial award.

AIMS testing dates for 2009-2010:

o        Fall 2009:  Juniors only:  Writing October 27, Reading Oct 28, Math Oct 29

o        Spring 2010:  Sophomores or Juniors:  Writing  Feb 23, Reading Feb 24, Math April 7

  • Homeschool students may take the test at any public school, or any participating county or district office or private school.
  • The cost of the testing is fully paid by the Department of Education
  • Certification process for homeschoolers:

o        Qualifying AIMS test score

o        Transcript showing completion of the 16 core credits

o        Grade of “B” or better in each of the core classes

o        3.5 overall GPA on the 16 core classes

  • Shannon Tucker of ADE is in charge of certifying the homeschoolers.  The full process is being worked out.

o        At this point, student transcripts are accepted as they are submitted by the parent with no outside documentation.

o        If community college classes have been taken, student should submit those transcripts as well as the work done under the parents’ supervision.  Dual enrollment classes at the community college are not counted as honors classes with a weighted grade if they included on the regular transcript.

  • Homeschoolers with early graduation may still qualify for the scholarship.  The passing of the AIMS must be completed by April of the 6th semester, so students who are graduating at the end of the 6th semester of high school still qualify for the funding the following semester if the graduation date is indicated to be the same year the test was taken.  (EX:  student will graduate in May 2009 after 3 years of high school.  AIMS is taken in February and April 2009, and the completion of core courses and the graduation date on the diploma is May 2009.  University entrance begins August 2009.  Student is only certified when the diploma is issued.)

 Additional questions:

  • Since the homeschool provision was put into law several years prior to the institution of the AIMS test provision, it seems it would have been illegal to exclude home educated students from the Regents’ Scholarship for the past three years
  • The homeschool qualification has always been the 90th %ile scores on the SAT and ACT.  To change that and require them to take the AIMS, when the state law specifically exempts these students from taking the state test, seems punitive and counter-productive.  Currently, homeschoolers have to pay the fees themselves for the college entrance tests, but that cost would be transferred to the AZ Department of Education, resulting in more costs to that department during the budget crunch.

Current wording of the 2009 homeschool provision

  Beginning with the class of 2009, home school students are eligible to receive this scholarship. Students officially enrolled in home schooling in Arizona must meet the same academic and residency requirements for this scholarship. They must take and exceed on the AIMS test by the end of their Junior year. For information on how to certify a home school student, please contact Shannon Tucker @ shannon.tucker@azed.gov or at 602-542-4391.

 http://www.ade.az.gov/asd/tuitionwaiver/HomeSchoolStudents.pdf

 Other sources:

 http://www.ade.az.gov/asd/tuitionwaiver/parents-students.asp

Phone conversation with Shannon Tucker at Arizona Department of Education

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