MARIETTA - The increased price of the new GED test debuting in 2014 could discourage some people from taking it, in spite of the advantages it offers.
The American Council on Education, which has developed and administered the GED (general equivalency diploma) since 1942, entered a partnership last year with international testing company Pearson VUE to develop a new GED test. The new assessment will be aligned with the national Common Core standards and provide both a high school credential and an assessment of college and career readiness.
It will also be an exclusively computer-based test, and will cost $120 in Ohio, up from $40 for the current version, offered in both pencil-and-paper and computer formats.
Julie Stoffel, head instructor with the Adult Basic and Literacy Education (A.B.L.E.) in Washington County, expects the result will be GED recipients who are more competitive in college and the workplace.
But the new price and other requirements could discourage some people from taking the test in the first place.
"I think essentially what is going to happen is a lot of people are going to struggle with taking the GED test," she said.
The financial aspect isn't the only factor, Stoffel said.
The current test is similar in content and difficulty to the Ohio Graduation Test, which high school students first take in the 10th grade, she said.
The new test will be more difficult, by about two grade levels, so people who haven't passed the OGT or have been out of school for a long time may need to spend more time in class to prepare for the new GED, Stoffel said.
The computer-based nature of the test could be another hurdle. It's estimated that someone will need to be able to type at least 35 words a minute to finish it in the allotted time, Stoffel said.
"People who only hunt and peck on the keyboard are probably not going to pass the test because they're going to run out of time," she said.
Although developing additional skills isn't a bad thing, more preparation time can be a disincentive, Stoffel said. In addition, one way to mitigate the cost could be taking only certain portions of the test at a time, meaning it would take longer to earn the certification.
"The difficulty with many students is they need to take the GED as soon as possible because they need it to get a job or get into college," she said.
Some have suggested the state of Ohio should develop its own test, but that would be costly and wouldn't necessarily produce the desired results, said John Charlton, associate director of communications for the Ohio Department of Education. The GED is recognized throughout the country and in some places beyond.
"There's no guarantee anyone would accept (a new test) as a graduation equivalent," Charlton said.
Something else potential GED test-takers should be aware of is that once the new test is in place, any credit they have from previous attempts won't count.
"There are people who have already passed certain sections of it," Stoffel said. "Their scores will not roll over."
If the complete test has not been passed by Dec. 21, 2013, they will have to take the new test in its entirety.
A.B.L.E. is trying to convey the upcoming changes and their timetable to those who want to earn a GED, but Stoffel said so far there has not been an increase in people taking classes, which are offered at Washington State Community College, the Cutler Community Center and St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Belpre. About 65 people are currently enrolled at those locations and the Washington County Jail.
Belpre Area Ministries offers financial assistance to people taking the GED. When the new test and price go into effect, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, affiliated with St. Mary Catholic Church in Marietta, plans to offer help to test-takers who attend A.B.L.E. classes and score at least a 500 on a practice test, Stoffel said.
The state used to waive the $40 fee for people who passed a practice test, but that program was discontinued about three years ago, Charlton said.