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GED signups on the rise

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

A tough economy has put thousands of people out of work, but according to the Lee County School District, more local residents than ever are signing up to take the General Education Development test or GED.

The local unemployment rate continues to rise from 4.7 percent in 2007, according to the Lee County Economic Development Office, to over 9 percent this fall.

Earlier this week Mavis Pacetti and Sue Roshon, from the district’s Technical, Career and Adult Education department, explained that in hard economic times fewer people enroll for the district’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and more sign up to get a GED.

From the 2006-2007 school year to 2007-2008, ESOL registrants decreased from 5,793 to 4,916. On the other hand, GED registrants increased from 1,458 to 1,782.

In Cape Coral, residents prepare for taking the GED test at Cape Coral High, High Tech North, Ida S. Baker High or North Fort Myers High.

“We have had quite an increase in the people studying to go for their GED,” said Mary Thompson, an instructor at High Tech North. “The age has increased as well.”

The older population, who could once get by without possessing a high school diploma or GED, are now going back to school to bolster their qualifications.

Others are young people who drop out, are expelled or are young females who left school because of an unexpected pregnancy.

“They are kicked out or dropped out but they realize you can’t progress without at least a GED,” said Thompson.

The number of GED registrants over the age of 20 jumped from 583 in 2006-2007 to 1,020 people in 2007-2008. Thompson said the oldest student she has seen is 58.

“We have the vocational classes so many people are trying to do both the GED and upgrade their scores to join our vocational class because they either lost their job or want to get a different skill and better job,” said Thompson.

Those who apply for the GED prep are tested and given an individualized learning plan, she said. They spend as much time as they need working at their own pace to master the material. She said that most people have problems with mathematics because they haven’t used the skills for years.

“They come in here thinking they will have a difficult time but once they start working on it they remember more than they thought they would,” said Thompson.

Besides the traditional preparation course in a classroom, the district offers a GED Fast Track Program for 16-and-17-year-olds, as well the opportunity to obtain a GED online. There are currently 25 students enrolled in the online course.

GED test prices have unfortunately increased from $40 to $65. But, the school district is offering a $10 rebate to any test taker who goes through the course before taking the test.