Since 1942, the General Education Development (GED) exam has been a valuable tool for students who didn’t earn a traditional high school diploma. But recent changes in the administration of the exam have moved the state of Tennessee to offer an alternative.
The changes began in earnest when Pearson VUE, the company that administers the exam, announced the cost of the exam would increase in Tennessee from $75 to $120. More importantly, it would only be available on-line.
The announcement caught Marva Doremus off-guard.
Doremus is the Adult Education Administrator for Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “We have an awful lot of rural areas in Tennessee, which would make it problematic,” she tells WUOT News. “It’s also problematic for incarcerated individuals to take a test on computer.” In addition, she says some older students aren’t comfortable taking such an important exam on on-line.
“We were afraid that accessibility to this stepping stone to a good job or any job or a better job or post-secondary would not be there anymore for many of our students,” she says.
While Pearson VUE’s decision moved some states to completely cut off ties to the GED, Tennessee decided it would offer the GED and an alternative. Beginning January 1, students who would like to earn their high school equivalency can also take the HiSET. Similar to the GED in content, the HiSET was designed by Educational Testing Service, the same organization that designs the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for aspiring college students. The biggest difference, says Doremus, is that the HiSET will also be available in a traditional paper format.
For the time being, the state will off-set the higher cost of the GED so both exams cost $75, Doremus says. But that agreement will expire at the end of June, unless the General Assembly renews it.
Tennessee was the first state in the country to approve an alternative equivalency exam, but others have already followed its lead. “The national picture of high school equivalency testing is shifting,” Doremus says, “and it’s shifting toward offering options for students.”