Cinda Huber still regrets her decision five years ago to drop out of high school.
Finding few work opportunities as a nongraduate without a general equivalency diploma, Huber, now 22, moved often and struggled with homelessness before starting a family.
She moved to Harvard about a year ago with her husband and 3-year-old son for a fresh start and to be closer to family. The couple also enrolled in the General Educational Development program at McHenry County College.
“I don’t want my son growing up thinking it’s OK to drop out of high school because mommy and daddy did,” said Huber, who works at MCC as a placement clerk. “We want a better future for ourselves and our son because it’s hard out there, and without a GED, it’s very hard to find well-paying jobs.”
Huber is one of thousands nationally trying to earn a GED through a five-section written test that must be passed to earn high school credentials.
As of October 2012, there were 20,511 residents ages 16 and older with less than a ninth-grade education in MCC’s district, according to a study by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. There also were 11,338 people with less than a 12th-grade education in the district.
Area educators stress that those without a high school education are at a disadvantage in the workplace.
“It opens so many doors,” said Jennifer Foster, associate vice president for adult education and workforce development for the Illinois Community College Board. “There are employment and post-secondary education opportunities, and in today’s economy, it’s not enough to just have the certificate; people need training to get the jobs of the future.”
Residents have the option to take the test for $50 without preparation, or can enroll in free classes before attempting the two-day examination.
The process of earning a GED generally takes six months to a year. Certificate seekers start by taking placements tests in reading and math, and based on those scores, either enroll in basic reading and math courses before taking the preparation course, or go directly into the program.
Students in the eight-week course study the five subjects – language arts, reading; language arts, writing; social studies; math; and science – and take practice tests.
MCC had 339 residents earn a GED in fiscal 2012. Lake in the Hills resident Adam Rayan, 24, is one of more than 180 students enrolled in GED classes at MCC this spring.
“It will improve my quality of life and provide more opportunities in the workplace,” said Rayan, who dropped out of high school his sophomore year. “I want to be able to support myself and, eventually, a family.”
GED Testing Services, the company that facilitates the test, has partnered with testing sites to encourage people to take it in 2013 before it undergoes a makeover.
The changes include a move to a computer-based test, higher fees, more rigorous questions, and making it easier for people to take each portion separately.
Starting in January, the entire test will cost $120, and the writing time will increase from 45 minutes to 90 minutes as the language arts portions are combined. It will cost an additional $10 to get a copy of the certificate.
Participants also can take one portion at a time, instead of taking it all at once in a classroom setting.
“It is going to ease the anxiety for test takers,” said Sherry May, adult education instruction coordinator at MCC. “People tend to get really worked up in a group setting. Now, they can take each portion when they feel they’re ready.”
Students still will have to take the test at a certified testing center, sign up online with a credit or debit card, and have a valid email address. They also will be able to take the test six times a year, compared with the three times offered now.
Although the grading process will not be determined until the summer, GED Testing Services is considering issuing two types of certificates based on test scores, Foster said.
That could include a two-tier system that would give residents one certificate stating they are job ready or one stating they are college and career ready.
If GED students don’t take the test before October, their scores will expire and they will have to start over.
“The new test is going to be much tougher,” said Rich Clute, MCC’s dean of adult education. “Young people out of high school don’t seem to have much of a problem because things are fresh, but it is going to be tougher for those who have been out of school for a while.”
On the Net
For information about earning a GED, visit www.mchenry.edu.