Diplomas for sale: $465, no classes required. Inside one of Louisiana’s unapproved schools

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. homeschooling / ˈhoʊmˌsku lɪŋ / (n.) – the practice of educating children at home, typically by parents or tutors, rather than sending them to a formal school

    Many parents chose homeschooling during the pandemic to ensure a safe environment for their children.

  2. unapproved / ˌʌnəˈpruːvd / (adj.) – not officially approved

    The construction project was stopped because the building plans were unapproved by the local authorities.

  3. fallout / ˈfɔlˌaʊt / (n.) – unexpected consequences or effects that result from a particular event or situation

    The economic decline resulted in significant fallout from businesses closing and job losses.

  4. disengage / ˌdɪs ɛnˈgeɪdʒ / (v.) – to detach oneself from a situation, relationship, or activity

    Many individuals are disengaging from traditional work structures and exploring remote job opportunities.

  5. umbrella / ʌmˈbrɛl ə / (n.) – a group or organization that represents or includes many small groups

    The foundation serves as an umbrella organization that supports various local charities in education and healthcare.


Read the text below.

Arliya Martin accepted her high school diploma with relief and gratitude. It was her ticket to better-paying work. But Martin didn’t take any classes or pass any tests to receive her degree. She got it in July from a school where students can get a high school diploma for $465.

Unlike public schools, formal homeschooling programs, or traditional private schools, nearly 9,000 private schools in Louisiana don’t need state approval to grant degrees. Nearly every one of those unapproved schools was created to serve a single homeschooling family, but some have buildings, classrooms, teachers, and dozens of students.

While unapproved schools account for a small percentage of the state’s students, those in Louisiana’s off-the-grid school system are a rapidly growing example of the nation’s continuing fallout from COVID-19: families disengaging from traditional education.

U.S. public school enrollment fell by more than 1.2 million students in the first two years of the pandemic. Many switched to private schools or told their state they were homeschooling. Thousands of others could not be accounted for at all.

The students in Louisiana’s off-the-grid school system aren’t missing. But there’s no way to tell what kind of education they’re getting, or whether they’re getting one at all. Over 21,000 students are enrolled in the state’s unapproved schools, nearly double the number from before the pandemic.

The place where Martin got her diploma, Springfield Preparatory School, bills itself as an umbrella school for Christian homeschoolers. Most students there do attend the school to work toward an education through actual classes or tutoring.

However, principal Kitty Sibley Morrison is also willing to grant a diploma to anyone whose parents say they were homeschooled, even years earlier. “Their parents are in charge of them, not the state,” Sibley Morrison said. Morrison says she is not selling diplomas, but rather lifetime services for homeschooling families.

Yet a list of prices is taped to the front window of the school building: $250 for diploma services, a $50 application fee, $35 for a diploma cover, and $130 to walk in a cap and gown at a ceremony.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • In your opinion, is a diploma necessary to get better-paying work? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What do you think about high school diplomas being available at a low cost? Do you see this as making education more accessible, or does it make you concerned about the value of these diplomas? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Do you believe that obtaining a high school diploma without meeting academic requirements diminishes its value? Why or why not? How might this impact students’ future opportunities? Discuss.
  • What do you think should be done to ensure kids who learn at home receive quality education in different subjects? Discuss.