Number of Texans who take the GED has steadily dropped over the years

Person going through test questions. (KXAN Photo)
Person going through test questions. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texans who drop out of high school still aren’t taking and passing the high school equivalency, GED, like they used to, according to a new report.

“The economy really is based on all of us working and attracting business and if we don’t have an educated workforce then they’re going to relocate,” said Chandra Villanueva, a policy analyst from the Center for Public Policy Priorities. She was the lead author of the report titled The Texas GED Problem is Getting Worse. 

According to the report, three million adults in Texas don’t have a high school diploma or GED and it’s still too hard for people to get one. The report cites several reasons such as a lingering perception that the test is too tough to pass, a $145 price tag and the test is all online–which requires computer access and proficiency.

“It never really crossed me to finish school up until the point I was tired of living the life I was living,” said Kristin Ochoa, who dropped out of Austin High School in 2015, when she was in the ninth grade. She finished the GED program at Goodwill last May and is now going to school for cosmetology.

“I wanted to…build a career and I wanted to start somewhere and that was with getting my GED,” said Ochoa.

Money made at Goodwill stores allows the company to offer bus passes, gas vouchers, hire case managers and life coaches all with the purpose to help a student finish their education.

“We are seeing a drop in our numbers, but we’re also seeing a longer runway from entry to completion,” said the vice president of education at Goodwill, Matt Williams. He says the big problem across the state is there isn’t enough money for programs like theirs. They have 75 students a year, anywhere from 30 to 60 get their GED.

“You need those supports to make sure your basic needs are met to focus on obtaining your credential,” said Williams.

“I feel like if I would’ve not had those resources it would have definitely been more difficult for me,” said Ochoa.

This is the first year that Texans can take two other tests that are not online and the Center for Public Policy Priorities hopes that helps the situation. But they say the state should collect more data on who is not taking the GED so they can specifically help those people.

More than 63,000 Texans took the GED in 2003 and the number has dropped every since with a nosedive in 2014, when the test maker changed the exam, making it much more difficult. The testing company adjusted and retroactively passed thousands of people who failed that version. In 2016, nearly 40,000 Texans took the GED.

On average, in Central Texas, people who did not graduate or get a GED make approximately $22,000 a year. But after taking the test, an individual’s income can jump nearly 30 percent to more than $28,000 a year. Overall, the average person in Central Texas earns just less than $40,000, including people with college degrees.

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