Changes to GED exams could impact 1,200 students in area
BEMIDJI - Dressed in a traditional black commencement gown and topped with a hat and yellow tassel, Audra "Tina" Grogan smiled as she stood behind the podium at Bemidji High School.
"What an incredible moment this is for me," she told the April 17 audience of GED graduates, families and friends. "I've dreamed of this opportunity more times than I can even count."
The 38-year-old woman from Bemidji and mother of three is one of nearly 100 individuals who received a GED diploma this school year.
Roughly 1,200 students from the area are still in the process of completing their GED, but now face a tighter deadline to finish than those who recently graduated, according to local GED Chief Examiner Jim DeWenter.
By Jan. 1, 2014, the GED exam will be rewritten based on a new set of standards, DeWenter said.
While this likely means students in every state would be tested on the same set of GED standards, it also means those who do not obtain their GED by Dec. 31, 2013, will have to retake the series of GED exams, only this time in a computer-based format.
Also, the cost to take the GED exams is likely to go up, DeWenter added.
The GED, which stands for General Educational Development, certifies a person as receiving the equivalent of a high school diploma. To obtain a GED, students must pass a series of five tests in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies.
Currently, individuals can obtain a GED through Bemidji School District's Adult Basic Education program, which is available at no cost to adults and has been administered through the Minnesota Department of Education.
Students can take up to three GED exams in one sitting, up to three times a year, with no restrictions on how long it takes to complete all five exams. The cost to take all five exams is $105, but the state helps fund $40 the fee, DeWenter said.
By 2014, DeWenter expects the test will cost more and the state will likely not help fund the cost. While students will still be able to enroll in Adult Basic Education in Bemidji for free, they will have to sign up to take the GED exams on their own.
Nancy Goodman, who has worked in Adult Basic Education in Bemidji since 1992, said she's concerned about the GED exams being rewritten and the possibility of students paying more.
"I'd hate for students who have not finished their GED to lose all that money they already paid and have to take or retake a test they already passed," she said.
Individuals considering completing their GED or who are in the process of getting their GED have six more opportunities to take their exams before the 2013 deadline, DeWenter said.
He urges anyone interested in obtaining their GED to call the Adult Basic Education office at 333-3299, ext. 220, or go to the Downtown Education Center, 502 Minnesota Ave. NW for more information.
In order to be eligible to test in Minnesota, individuals cannot already be enrolled in high school. GED students must be at least 19 years of age or at least 16 years of age with permission from a parent or guardian.
Despite their concerns over the future changes, both Goodman and DeWenter have a deep respect for those who make the decision to complete their GED.
"The students are wonderful to work with," Goodman said. "Sometimes going through high school can be an easy way to finish your high school education. Many GED students juggle their education with work, childcare and sometimes even battle with addiction recovery, yet they find a way to keep going."
DeWenter echoed Goodman's remarks. He said attaining a GED gives individuals a better chance at succeeding later in life.
"Nearly all colleges will take someone with a GED, so it's a foot in the door and a real opportunity," he said. "It's hard to go back to high school and finish, so for some it's a better route to go."
Until recently, Grogan said she had never been a goal-setter because she was too afraid to fail. But completing a GED changed things for her.
"The majority of my life I have always felt inferior to others because of my lack of education," Grogan said. "Now, not only did I obtain my GED, I am more confident because I have the options. I no longer have to hold back tears through college commercials because I know I qualify. If not for my GED, I would still be living in defeat."