Nearly 1,900 Georgians who had failed the GED test may now be eligible for the general equivalency diploma, and hundreds of others could earn college credit from the exam, because the national scoring system has changed.
The passing score was lowered from 150 to 145. That means 1,880 Georgians who received a score of 145 to 149 on the GED test since Jan. 1, 2014, when the exam went from paper to computer, could receive the high school credential, the Technical College System of Georgia announced in a news release.
"These changes mean that more highly qualified individuals in Georgia have the opportunity to access higher education or enter the workforce," TCSG commissioner Gretchen Corbin said in the release. "Not only is this great news for our adult education students, but it's great news for Georgia, bringing us closer to our Complete College Georgia goal set by Gov. Deal and expanding the workforce pipeline for our companies."
April Hopson, director of adult education at Columbus Technical College, said in the release, "Many in our six-county service area are afraid of the test because they've heard it's extremely difficult. Now that the scoring has been adjusted and people can more easily earn college credit, it will help us communicate how important it is for folks to earn their GED and, hopefully, continue their education."
The national changes to the GED test also include levels above high school equivalency to signify college readiness - and some test-takers might earn college credit:
Through the new GED "College Ready" performance level, 3,639 Georgians have a score of 165 to 174 in at least one of the four subject tests and may now be eligible to enter credit-bearing college courses.
Through the new GED "College Ready + Credit" performance level, 685 Georgians with at least one score of 175 to 200 may qualify for college credit, and 22 Georgians with scores of 175 to 200 on all subjects may qualify for as many as 10 college credit hours.
The GED Testing Service's analysis of GED program graduates compared to high school graduates during the past 18 months played a part in the scoring changes, the release said, but the test remains the same.
In fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30, the GED test passing rate in Georgia was 65 percent of the 7,348 students who took all four sections of the exam.
Here's why increasing that passing rate matters:
"We know that for individuals without a high school diploma or a GED, the unemployment rate is 5.4 percent higher and average annual income is $10,000 less than for those with these credentials, so these enhancements are game-changers for GED graduates," TCSG assistant commissioner for adult education Beverly Smith said in the release.
The GED scoring changes will be implemented March 1, when results and other information will be available on GED.com, the release said. Georgians affected by these changes should receive their diplomas and transcripts by mid-March, the release said. The TCSG Office of Adult Education will contact former GED students who are eligible but not enrolled in classes, the release said.
So GED students who think they qualify for this reprieve don't have to do anything else to be eligible.
"They just have to wait until they get the letter mailed to them," Hopson told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview Wednesday.
Hopson knows of approximately five Columbus Tech GED students who already have received such a letter, but she won't know how many in total are eligible until the state completes the notification process. Columbus Tech GED test-takers who scored from 145 to 149 since Jan. 1, 2014, but didn't receive a qualification letter by mid-March should call Hopson at 706-641-5620.
"My door is always open," she said.
Georgia GED test-takers also may call the program's customer service center at 404-679-1645 for more information.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.