Beginning in January 2014, a nationwide, revamped version of the GED equivalency exam will be administered via computer and more than triple in cost to $140.
The changes have Tom Robbins, director of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education' Office of Adult Education and High School Equivalency, looking to change equivalency test providers in Missouri.
"I feel that getting a high school equivalency certificate is very important for those without a diploma," Robbins said. "And there need to be changes made to the test series that has been in place since 2002. But when we learned of the changes slated for next year, we felt we needed to find a different provider for our equivalency test."
While equivalency candidates may be comfortable with the current GED test series, Robbins believes they may not be comfortable with next year's computer-only test.
"The GED has always been a pencil-and-paper test," he said. "Not everyone who takes their test will be computer-ready. We believe that will make the test all the more challenging for those who will be sitting down in front of a computer for the first time."
More importantly, Robbins said, is the effect a higher-priced GED course will have on people thinking about getting an equivalency certificate. The cost of enrolling in a GED program in Cape Girardeau is $40, but that amount will increase to $140 under the 2014 GED program.
"People who take GED courses are looking to open doors," he said. "They want to better themselves and open doors to college and better jobs. Most live on a very tight budget, and the added cost of getting their equivalency may lead them to not get it at all."
C.T. Turner, director of public affairs for GED Testing Services, said switching to computer-based testing will benefit the test-taker.
"The way things stand now, a candidate who doesn't pass the test has no way of knowing what areas he or she needs to improve in," Turner said. "All they know is that they failed the test. Using a computer for the test will allow us to gather information on all candidates and be able to provide them with feedback on not only what they didn't do well in, but also on what they did do well in. We think that's something valuable."
As for the increase in cost of the GED program, Turner said it is related to the cost of implementing a computer-based test. There are things states can do to help lower the cost for test-takers.
"A step that can be taken is for a state to purchase vouchers," he said. "They can provide a discount for candidates who truly need help with the cost of taking the GED course from start to finish."
If his office adopts a different equivalency test, Robbins said it will be as acceptable as the GED brand and will cost as little as possible.
"The vendor we choose will produce a test that will continue to determine one's high school equivalency in areas of literacy, mathematics, science and social studies" he said. "It will also measure the knowledge and skills necessary for college and career readiness. We've also challenged vendors to develop one that could include pencil-and-paper or a computer test for those who may prefer it. Having those options instead of computer-only would be a good idea."
Becky Atwood, adult education and literacy coordinator for the Cape Girardeau School District, encourages people who have taken the GED course and passed sections of the test to re-enroll into the program as soon as they can.
"If individuals do not finish all of their testing prior to Dec. 31," she said, "they will have to restart the entire testing process over at a higher price. That's something I don't want to see happening to anyone."
301 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.