More than 39 million Americans 16 and older lack a high school diploma, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. And while a new survey indicates their reasons for dropping out range from lack of parental support to becoming parents themselves, those seeking a second chance at an education often find hope in General Educational Development (GED) programs.
Daily, about 7,000 students drop out of high school - about 1.3 million per year, according to advocacy group Alliance for Excellent Education. Nearly a quarter of those who drop out cite a lack of parental support or encouragement as their chief reason for not completing high school, according to the 2012 High School Dropouts in America survey conducted by Harris/Decima on behalf of Everest College. Becoming a parent prompted 21 percent to drop out, and missing too many days of school influenced 17 percent.
"Americans without a high school diploma or GED test credential face tremendous challenges," says John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College. "Yet the obstacles that prompt students to drop out of high school, or that stand in the way of their GED pursuit, are solvable. We need to continue putting our dropout crisis under the microscope and develop substantive solutions going forward."
The Everest College survey indicates that dropping out of high school creates new issues for dropouts, including unemployment and a lack of career potential. Only a third of those surveyed were employed, either full-time, part-time or self-employed. And of those who were working, 46 percent said they had little or no prospects for advancing in their current jobs.-
"It's certainly not surprising that almost half of young Americans without a high school diploma feel like their career prospects are on shaky ground," Swartz says. "The unemployment rate for high school dropouts is significantly higher than those with a high school diploma. A dropout's access to post-secondary education and training - a requirement for many jobs in today's competitive economy - is severely restricted."
A GED credential can be a second chance for dropouts, granting them access to higher education and better job prospects. However, more than three quarters of those surveyed by Everest said they had not considered a GED credential or looked into it, and had yet to pursue entering the program. More than a third said lack of time prevented them from pursuing a GED, and 26 percent said cost was an obstacle.
"Completing high school or a GED program is fundamental to our economy, and is the first step toward receiving post-secondary education and training for the in-demand jobs of the future," Swartz says.
All 50 states recognize the General Educational Development (GED) credential, and GED testing is available year-round. In addition to thousands of testing centers, many states now make GED testing available online. The GED test covers five subject areas: social studies (which encompasses history, geography, civics and economics), science, language arts/reading, math and writing. In some states, you can take the test free of charge. Your local GED testing center can advise what the cost is in your state and help you register for the test.
Many GED-seekers find value in preparation courses such as Everest's recently launched GED Advantage. The GED test prep and credential completion program is free and open to the public. Call (888) 201-6547 to learn more about the program. After completing a prep course and achieving their GED, students will be better poised to enter degree programs for high-demand fields such as health care or law.
To learn more about the GED program, visit www.yourged.org, acenet.edu or your state department of education's website. For more information on Everest's GED Advantage, a free GED program, log on to www.everest.edu. To learn about high-growth employment fields, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website (www.bls.gov) and search the Occupational Outlook Handbook.