Lawmakers seek GED replacements

2014-03-12T19:39:00Z 2014-03-12T21:42:31Z Lawmakers seek GED replacementsT.J. Fowler Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
March 12, 2014 7:39 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | With GED testing fees rising by more than 100 percent in Illinois this year, state lawmakers are looking to other testing companies for an alternative.

Legislators have proposed opening up the state’s high school equivalency requirements to recognize new tests, after the fee to take the GED in Illinois jumped from $50 to $120.

“Look who’s trying to take the GED,” said state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, who introduced the proposal. “These are people who are trying to get their high school equivalency and improve their lives and get jobs. So it’s a huge burden.”

Jakobsson’s measure would allow the state to “shop around” for more tests to offer, with the goal of finding one at a lower rate.

“There are tests being developed and they have to be approved by the federal government,” she said. “So by changing the statute, the state would be able to go out and look at other tests. You create more competition, and that lowers the price.”

But Richland Community College in Decatur hasn’t seen much fallout from the higher fees.

“I know across the state there was a decline in enrollment in January,” said Kelly Gagnon, an adult education coordinator. “At Richland, we haven’t really seen much of an impact. We think the price might be a good thing.”

Gagnon explained that the new fee breaks the test down into sections that cost $30 each. Before, students had to pay $50 for the entire test at once. If they failed, they would have to pay the $50 fee to complete all four sections again.

The price hike came about after the nonprofit GED Testing Service partnered with Pearson, a for-profit education assessment and publishing company, to move the test to an all-digital format and update its academic standards.

With new standards that more accurately reflect a modern high school education, Gagnon said the revised test will take students further than older versions.

“The new GED test is aligned to the Common Core,” she said. “We’re very excited that it’s going to focus on career readiness. It won’t just get them through high school.”

But Jakobsson says the price of the test is too cumbersome for many GED test-takers, and there’s no guaranteeing that it won’t get even worse.

“When Pearson got the GED tests, the first thing they did was raise the prices,” Jakobsson said. “They went from $50 to $120. Since it’s a for-profit company, who knows how long it would stay at $120?”

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