Likins: Let UA decide homeschool entry policy

By Jeff Sklar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, May 3, 2004

TEMPE - President Peter Likins on Friday tried to dissuade regents from adopting minimum standards of admission for homeschooled students, saying the universities should be allowed to admit them based on their own criteria.

But some homeschooled students say a tougher admissions policy, which takes effect in 2006 and grants automatic admission only to students in the top 25 percent of their high school classes, discriminates against students who were educated at home. Those students have no class rank.

They want universities to grant home-schooled students automatic admission based on standardized test scores. But Likins said that would create a double standard that puts students educated in traditional high schools at a disadvantage.

Such a policy is especially unnecessary, Likins said, because homeschooled students are already accepted to universities at high rates. And though they would no longer be assured admission, he said admissions officers would still likely accept many of them based on the quality of their overall application, which includes grades, test scores and other factors.

"Send them our way," he said. "We love our homeschoolers."

Regents seemed to welcome Likins' analysis, which came as they debated whether it would be adequate to trust universities to establish fair admissions policies for homeschooled students, or whether regents should adopt uniform standards.

But they also heard from three formerly homeschooled ASU students who said not adopting standards for homeschoolers was unfair and discriminatory.

"It discriminates against us," ASU sophomore Christina Trefzger said.

At the UA last year, 20 of 24 homeschooled applicants were admitted, but only six enrolled, Likins said. That's the highest number ever, but still a tiny fraction of the total freshman class enrollment, which was just shy of 6,000.

Typically, homeschooled students' average SAT scores exceed 1200, and one year the average was 1280. But if a 1200 SAT score were established as a standard for guaranteed admission for homeschoolers, fairness would force the universities to accept all other students who earned that score.

"If we were to set a number, ... we'd have to recognize that the homeschooled students are one-tenth of 1 percent of our enrollment," Likins said. "How could we face the thousands and thousands of students out there that would not be guaranteed admission even if they exceeded the SAT threshold?"

Regents also agreed to grant automatic tuition scholarships to students who meet the standards for high honors under a state program meant to reward high schoolers who excel academically.

To qualify for the scholarship, students will have to earn a "B" or better in all 16 core course requirements and earn a 3.5 GPA or graduate in the top 5 percent of their class. They also have to exceed the standard on all three portions of the AIMS test or exceed the standard on two portions and meet it on the third, and earn a 3 or better on at least two Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests.

The universities will develop plans for awarding these scholarships and regents will finalize them by August.

The plan will be packaged into the Regent Honors Endorsement Program, which was created by Tom Horne, the state's superintendent of public instruction, to reward top students.

Now, those students receive no incentive beyond a seal on their diploma. Awarding them a guaranteed scholarship would reinforce the importance of hard work in high school, said Horne, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents.

"This is an attempt to motivate students to achieve at high academic levels," he said.

Regents don't expect the new policy to have a serious financial impact on the universities because most of the students who meet the criteria for high honors would earn tuition scholarships anyway after being accepted to the university. The new program simply assures they would receive these awards.

According to a regents' analysis, 383 of the 389 current Arizona university freshmen who took the AIMS test as sophomores three years ago and met all the program's requirements received tuition scholarships.

The six who didn't were considered anomalies and would have also received the scholarships under normal circumstances, said board staff member Tom Wickenden.