Changes to the test to obtain a General Educational Development diploma (GED) – including the cost more than doubling after the new year – has adult education officials worried that the credential may be out of reach of many of the people who need it the most.
Beginning in January, the cost of the GED test will increase from $50 to $120, said Elaine Weaver, the adult education director Coffee, Bedford and Warren counties. The rate hike comes roughly two years after Pearson VUE entered a joint venture with the American Council on Education to form GED Testing Service and copyrighted the GED name. According to CT Turner, the company’s senior director of public affairs and government relations, GED Testing Service is responsible for everything GED.
“We are an independent company with an eight person board – four members appointed by each organization,” Turner said.
“There is a state fund to help offset testing fees in 2014, and the GED testing program will likely be around $75 for most test-takers,” Turner added.
When news of the change spread throughout the adult education community, Weaver said many in her field worried about the ramifications of the price increase.
“Everybody was very afraid of that,” she said. “Our students now pay $50, and $50 is almost too much for most of them.”
The test itself has also been reconfigured, to align it with Common Core standards, and eliminated the paper-based test. Students taking the GED test next year will have to do so on a computer.
“Nationwide, people in adult education are concerned and many rural students just don’t have computer skills,” Weaver said. “… We think that probably a lot of our younger students will prefer the computer, but a lot of our older folks don’t have the skills necessary to be comfortable using a computer.”
In response to the changes to the GED, Weaver said 18 states joined forces to form a consortium to find alternative tests students could take to earn a high school equivalency diploma. Last summer, the state legislature passed a bill that made Tennessee one of several states across the country that will offer the Hi-SET test as an option to adult education students. Weaver said the charge to take the Hi-SET test will be $50 per student plus a “sitting fee.” The amount of the sitting fee has yet to be determined, but Weaver said she expects it will be in the $25 range. The Hi-SET test will give students the choice to take the exam on paper if they prefer.
With the end-of-the-year deadline looming, Weaver said the last four testing dates have been “absolutely filled to capacity” as students scramble to pass the test before the changes go into effect.
In the midst of that, Weaver said she often fielding questions about the Hi-SET.
“I’m getting a lot of questions like is the Hi-SET as good as the GED and will people recognize it,” she said. “The question they always ask if it they will take it in another state.”
Since a diploma earned by passing the Hi-SET will be issued by the state of Tennessee, it will be portable, Weaver said.
Dot Watson, vice chair of the Literacy Council of Coffee County, said the group is very concerned that the higher fees students will have to pay to take either the GED or the Hi-SET may price some students out of the market for a diploma….
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