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RCCC can help with new GED fees

Each year, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has one of the highest numbers of high school equivalency graduates through its General Education Development (GED) program. As of Jan. 1, two primary changes for the national GED test occurred: the test is now computer-based, and the cost has increased from $35 for the previously required five sections to a new $120 total for the current mandatory four sections of the exam.
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has funding available to pay for testing of students enrolled in its GED program in 2014.
In 2013, 639 students graduated from the program, a record at the college, according to Gary Connor, director of the Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED program. He does not have final numbers, but says many students did not complete testing on the older test version before the December 2013 deadline.
“Recognizing that fact,” he says, “the college wants to support students who enroll in the GED program. Students will be eligible to apply for funding to pay the higher testing fees.”
Connor says Rowan and Cabarrus counties have some of the highest levels of functional illiteracy in the state. “I’m not afraid we’ll graduate too many students and have none left,” he says. “We’ve got a long way to go. I don’t want students to abandon their GED efforts because of a cost factor.”
Previously a pencil-and-paper test, the GED began computer-based testing in January.
There is some anxiety about taking a computer-based test, Connor says, among older students “who do not have a wealth of experience with computers. So keyboarding skills are going to be important. We’re teaching keyboarding exercises in our writing classes.”
In talking with other community colleges and the GED testing service, Connor has learned that students typically earn higher grades in computer-based tests. “It’s just visually easier to take the test,” Connor notes. “With pen and paper, you’re more apt to lose your place. With computer-based testing, it’s not that much of an issue.”
There’s an increased emphasis in reading and writing skills. Therefore, more emphasis on reading and writing will take place in the classroom, he says.
“When we do a first assessment of a student, we focus on both reading and math skills,” Connor explains. “You’re going to have to know how to read to increase your other performance skills.”
“A lot of people coming in now do not realize the test has changed, and so it really doesn’t affect them,” says Janice Jones, GED program coordinator. The students who are continuing from last year, she says, “are disappointed about the changes, but I have told them, ‘You’re not going to get a GED sitting at home.’”
Jose Garcia is not sitting at home. Garcia, of Salisbury, plans to take the GED within the next month. He had prepared for the old test, and he says his only concern is being able to use all of the new technology to take the new test.
Garcia, now 18, dropped out of school when he was 17. “I had to work,” he says. “I preferred money over school.”
He soon decided he wanted to go to college, and realized he’d need a GED to do it.
Garcia plans to enroll at Rowan-Cabarrus and then transfer elsewhere. He’s contemplating a career in either architecture or as a tattoo artist.
The GED computer labs are open from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. The labs feature self-paced courses which are facilitated by Rowan-Cabarrus staff, then break-out classes are taught in a traditional classroom setting in writing and math throughout the day.
Typically, most students enter the program having anywhere from a sixth- to ninth-grade education, and approximately six to nine months are necessary to prepare to take the GED.
“We have students who come through the English As a Second Language (ESL)program, and then enroll in the GED program,” Connor says. “These students historically do very well with math and social studies. Their difficulty is going to be in language-related classes.”
Connor says 18 percent of students who complete the GED program go on to enroll at Rowan-Cabarrus. It’s a number he wants to double in the next couple of years. The 18 percent figure sounds low, he says, but it’s about average statewide.
In the meantime, he urges students to enroll in the GED program to continue their education.
“If you’re not here because of the cost factor, that has gone away,” he says.
For more information about the GED program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, contact the Pre-Colleges Studies Department at 704-216-3510 or visit www.rccc.edu.

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