For many Ohioans who did not graduate from high school for one reason or other, earning a high school equivalency diploma can alter significantly the prospects of decent living. The General Education Development test, or the GED, is their first step up the ladder to education beyond high school, to trade schools and training programs that promise better job options. Changes in GED testing that are scheduled to go into effect in January 2014 thus put significant hurdles in the path of people who need every encouragement to earn the diploma.
The GED Testing Service, a joint venture between the nonprofit American Council on Education, which owns the tests, and Pearson VUE, a for-profit test developer, announced earlier this year it will convert the GED to a wholly digital test in 2014. The tests will be tougher, to reflect Ohio’s new Common Core curriculum. In another change, candidates who have not passed all of the current five-part test before the switch is made will have to take all the tests over again. Also, the number of licensed test sites will be cut by more than half, but there will be more opportunities to take the online tests.
The cost to take the GED will rise to $120, from the current $40. The cost increase is of particular concern as it is certain to prove discouraging for many prospective test-takers. The typical GED candidate is working a low-wage job or unemployed. Many have been out of school for long periods and require considerable tutoring to be ready for the tests. Until the budget cuts in 2010, Ohio picked up the $40 fee for candidates who pass a practice test. In effect, from paying nothing, Ohio test-takers must come up with $120, no small amount for the jobless and low-wage earners trying to improve their prospects.
It is in the interest of the state, civic and business communities to motivate residents who realize they need the leverage of a high school diploma or equivalent. One way to do so would be to prevent the cost from becoming a barrier by continuing to help in paying for the GED.