The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 11, 2013

Major changes looming for GED students


TARBORO — Major changes are in store for students pursuing their GED beginning in January.

Computerization of the tests, fee increases and curriculum changes are all part of the revamp of the program.

“The present test series for the GED program started in 2002, and the state is eliminating that series and starting a new series,” said Jerry Harper, ECC’s director of college and career readiness.

Timothy Walker, 54, of Tarboro, plans to take the GED tests next month, before the changes are implemented. He started the GED program at Edgecombe Community College in June.

“It’s better to finish now, because it’s going to be a whole lot less stress,” Walker said. “I’m glad I started when I did.”

Walker doesn’t consider himself an accomplished typist, so he said he’s glad he’ll be able to take the tests on paper. As of Jan. 1, all GED students will have to take the tests on the computer.

“When you have to type everything, I think it’s going to be a lot harder and I think it’s going to be a lot more stressful…They say some of the tests are up to three hours long and that’s a long time sitting in front of the computer,” Walker said. “I think it’s going to make it harder and I think you’re going to see less people try it.”

Walker said he sees the computerization of the program, and the testing, being more of an obstacle for the older generation of students that might not have much experience working with computers.

 “Because students will be e-testing, we are adding more e-testing in early assessments,” Harper said. “Students will be taking pre-assessments and practice tests on the computer.”

Walker anticipates the curriculum changes next year making the program more challenging, as well.

“They’ve added trigonometry,” he said. “I think it’s going to be harder on the older people if they’ll have to do trigonometry…I quit school in the ninth (grade), so I never actually had algebra, or trigonometry.”

Harper said the new program would be “some degrees more difficult.”

“Students will need to know more. In 2014, students will have to bring to the table a certain amount of general knowledge and academic knowledge,” he said.

Currently, GED students must pass tests in five subject areas – literature, social studies, science, English/writing and math. The new program combines the subjects of literature and English/writing into one subject — reading/ writing. Other subjects will remain the same.

Taking the GED will become more costly next year, as well.

Harper said the current one-time fee of $35 to take all the state tests will increase to as much as $24 per test, with the exact fee still unknown.

That means students potentially could have to pay $140 to take all four tests one time, Walker said, whereas now they pay a one-time fee to take all the tests and have three chances to pass.

“I think it’s going to be harder for them to come up with the money and I think it’s going to be harder for them to concentrate, knowing that if you don’t pass, you got to pay that fee again,” he said.

While Walker admits to be a “little nervous” about taking the GED tests next month, he said he looks forward to it.

“I like the challenge,” he said.

ECC plans to add more off-site locations where county students can study for their GED to make the program more convenient, Harper said. Walker plans to finish out his GED studies at the evening program at Bulluck School, because he anticipates beginning a new job at Flowers Bakery shortly.

“I think it’s a good way to help people that have a job and want to get an education,” Walker said. “It’s good that they spread it out at different parts of the county, so it gives equal opportunity.”

Walker decided to pursue his GED after the company where he worked, Hostess Brands, closed in November 2012. Returning to school after being out of the world of academia for 40 years was not easy for Walker, but he said he’s glad he decided to advance his education.

“At least it will help me advance (in my career), because I have learned a lot, and I’ve been proud of myself,” Walker said.

Walker also earned his Career Readiness Certificate, which he said some local employers require.

About 1,200 students go through the GED program at ECC each year. The college’s program is eighth out of the state’s 58 community colleges in student progression, and 19th in graduation rates.

A news release from Edgecombe Community College contributed to this report.