KY Policy Blog

Kentuckians Face Challenges in Accessing the GED in 2014

By Ashley Spalding
June 18, 2013

Kentucky adults without a high school diploma will find it more difficult to earn a GED (General Education Development test credential) beginning in January 2014. Due to upcoming changes in the GED, the test will be more expensive and may be harder to access, among other challenges.

These changes are occurring because of the need to update test content and as a result of the merging of the American Council on Education (ACE), the not-for-profit organization that developed and has administered the test for 70 years, partnering with the for-profit Pearson VUE, the largest testing company in the world, to administer the test in the future.

Earning a high school equivalency diploma through the GED is an important step for many Kentucky adults toward attaining a postsecondary degree—not to mention earning higher wages—and the state has set some ambitious higher education goals to counteract its low rates of educational attainment. The changes to the GED due to go into effect in January 2014 will likely decrease access to this important credential. The state should be exploring ways to mitigate the potentially negative effects on Kentuckians without a high school diploma or GED test credential.

The upcoming changes to the GED in 2014 include:

  • Increased costs to examinees in most states: In Kentucky the cost will double from $60 to $120.
  • A computerized-only format: The paper-pencil version will only be available to those needing disability-related accommodations. Those required to take the computerized version may not have the computer skills necessary to pass.
  • Reduced availability: Because some current testing sites may lack the equipment necessary for computerized testing, the number of test sites may decline. As a result, potential test-takers could have reduced access to the GED.
  • Substantial redesign and revision: The content of the 2014 GED will address college readiness standards.

Adults who have already started completing the five tests in the current GED will be unable to retain credit with the new 2014 GED. In Kentucky, approximately 16,000 people have started but not finished the GED; if they do not complete the entire series by the end of this year, their scores will expire and they will have to start over again with the new GED in 2014.

In order to encourage these Kentuckians to complete the GED, free testing is being offered through July 31. However, the number of people who can take advantage of this opportunity is likely to be limited. For instance, those who still have more than one or two of the five subject tests to take may need a great deal of preparation in order to pass the other sections. If they are already working and/or caring for children, both the July and December deadlines may be prohibitive.

A number of states are working to reduce the burden of these GED changes on potential test-takers.

For example, rather than adopting the new GED, several states will be implementing alternative tests. New York will use the TASC test developed by McGraw-Hill/CTB. Although the TASC is the product of a for-profit organization, the cost will be only $54; both computerized and paper-pencil versions will be offered, with a gradual increase in computerization over time; and the inclusion of the state’s common core standards will be phased in to keep pace with state educational reforms.1 New Hampshire and Montana are adopting the HiSET test developed by the non-profit Educational Testing Service (ETS), with the University of Iowa’s Testing Program (ITP). This test keeps costs down and is offered in both paper-pencil and computerized formats. For states that want to avoid GED score expiration in 2014, the HiSET program also supports combined pre-2014 GED scores with HiSET scores to issue high school equivalency credentials.

Other states are moving forward with the new GED but are taking on some of the test’s cost to keep the price down for test-takers, among other measures to keep high school equivalency testing accessible. Maryland is able to keep the cost down to $45 at least temporarily through the 2014 budget, and the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation requiring the state to study alternatives to the GED. Maine already pays the full cost of the GED, including preparation costs, and will continue to do so; the state ultimately plans to pursue an alternative test but not for the next two to three years.2

Additional options for states include participating in the National External Diploma Program (NEDP), which currently operates in six states and Washington, D.C., and working to create new high school equivalency diploma options like Minnesota and Washington are doing.3

Although Kentucky is offering the GED test at no cost until the end of this month, the state is not currently seeking alternatives to the new 2014 GED or other ways of reducing negative impacts on those who need to earn a high school equivalency diploma to increase their economic opportunities and/or go on to postsecondary education.

The state should be working to help all students—including working adults—attain the basic skills and credentials needed to connect to higher levels of education and employment. This includes exploring alternatives to—and ways to mitigate the impact of—the 2014 GED. Just 27.6 percent of adults age 18-64 in Kentucky have an associate’s degree or higher, ranking the state fifth from the bottom on this measure. 13.6 percent of Kentuckians in this age group do not have a high school diploma or GED.4

  1. According to state law, those taking a high school equivalency test in New York cannot be charged for the test. If New York had gone with the new GED, which costs $120 a test, the state would probably have had to reduce the number of tests taken.
  2. Working Poor Families Project State Partners Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, June 18, 2013.
  3. Carol Clymer, “Preparing for the New GED Test: What to Consider Before 2014,” Working Poor Families Project, Fall 2012, http://www.workingpoorfamilies.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/WPFP-fall-brief_2012.pdf.
  4. Kentucky ranks 38th in the nation on the share of those 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma or GED. Working Poor Families Project, Population Reference Bureau, analysis of 2011 American Community Survey.

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