Recently, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet has allotted $600,000 in funding to waive test fees for those seeking a GED diploma.
Marion County Adult Education Instructor Holly Buckman is optimistic that more adult learners will take advantage of the services the Adult Education program can offer now that the cost of the test is no longer an obstacle.
“Our hope is that we see even more people come in to work toward their GED this year,” Buckman said.
Last year, Adult Education had 50 students complete their GED (the original goal was 20), with a majority of them being students they worked with at the Marion County Detention Center.
However, already two students who had previously opted not to seek their GED came back to Adult Education because of the fee waiver.
The GED is divided into four parts, each of which cost $30. Buckman said that for some, a total price tag of $120 was enough of an obstacle to keep them from attempting the GED at all.
“People can’t afford that, especially if they don’t have a job,” Buckman said.
While there are still plenty of other obstacles that can get in the way, Buckman says the Adult Education program has found ways to make getting a GED a reality. For example, before taking the GED, students take a practice test which comes with a small fee. Luckily Adult Education is able to offer vouchers to cover the cost.
Buckman also said she has flexible hours to help navigate work schedule conflicts.
“When someone is working a 12-hour shift, it’s difficult to make an appointment, or study,” Buckman said. “But here’s what I’ve found: If they’ll come in and be sincere and diligent about it, they’ll pass it. I can get them through the test, I can teach them.”
In 2014, the GED received an overhaul which made the test more rigorous. The math portion, which is primarily geometry and algebra, has proven to be the most daunting. However, Buckman said that shouldn’t deter students from making the attempt.
“The new test is more rigorous but it’s doable,” she said. “About 95% of the people that walk in the door say, ‘I can’t do math.’ But we can teach them the math if they’ll come in because we do it at the jail every day.”
In fact, most students end up realizing earning the GED wasn’t as difficult as expected.
“All of the people who came in the office last year really surprised themselves with how successful they were,” Buckman said.
Most students from Marion County take the GED at Campbellsville University, Buckman said. Also, students can opt to take the GED one section at a time instead of all at once.
While earning a GED can lead to better job opportunities and benefits, some adult learners plan on eventually attending college. Others want to show their children that they can accomplish a goal.
Buckman is also quick to note that improving adult education helps the county as a whole.
“It’s definitely a benefit to Marion County. It also helps those adults help their children with their academic work,” she said. “I tell [teachers], ‘I’m working with your students’ parents; if I can help them, they can help your kids with homework and your students are going to be more successful.’”
To get started working toward a GED with the help of the Adult Education program, prospective students simply need to stop by the office to get enrolled in a program. Next, they will take a preliminary test to see where they stand and what type of support is needed.
Not all students operate on the same time frame. Some are ready to complete the GED is a matter of months, whereas others might work with Adult Education off-and-on for two to three years as they juggle other responsibilities.
Adult Education also offers distance learning opportunities, where students can study online (although internet access can be another barrier), and a GED+ program where students can prepare for the GED while also taking community college courses.
While Buckman admits Adult Education can feel like an unknown program, with most people learning about it by word of mouth, she’s optimistic there’ll be more students enrolled in 2020.
“We’re always actively seeking new students,” she said.
The Adult Education office is located in the Community Learning Center at 214 North Harrison Street in Lebanon. The phone number is: (270) 692-2266.