Have you thought about getting a GED? Perhaps you've started the process in the past, and passed some of the five sections of the test, and you keep meaning to go back and finish the rest.
Now would be a good time, say state and local adult education officials.
In January 2014, Tennessee will switch over to a new GED test that will be more much expensive and more difficult. Partial progress on the current test won't count towards the new test; anyone who's completed some sections of the current test will have to start over from scratch if they wait until 2014.
That's why educators are encouraging as many students as possible to try to take the test by the end of 2013.
"We are going to have a push next year to get as many people through the GED test as we can next year," said Elaine Weaver of Bedford County Adult Education on Depot Street.
Bedford County Adult Education sends students to take the test at Motlow State Community College, which charges only $50, one of the lowest prices in the state. (The average cost is $65.)
But even the $50 is a challenge for some students to come up with, so a $25 scholarship -- funded by local contributors such as Shelbyville Rotary Club -- is offered for those who do well on the practice test and can't afford the $50 on their own.
Some students end up having to take the test, or individual parts of it, several times before passing, adding to the total cost. It costs $10 to retake one of the individual sections of the test.
The new test, coming in 2014, will be entirely computer-based and will cost $120 to $140 to take. It will cost $25 to $50 to retake individual sections of the test.
"That is just exorbitant for our students. We are very, very worried about that," said Weaver.
The new "evidence-based" testing system will require both long-form and short-form typed answers to questions.
The Pearson VUE test will be the first time Tennessee's GED test will come from a for-profit business. It's intended to more closely reflect the Common Core State Standards used in the state's traditional-age school systems.
"I am very, as we all are, concerned about it," said Weaver. "We are mostly concerned that the cost is going to be so much more."
Bedford County Adult Education is circulating flyers in the community urging residents to begin the process of studying and signing up for the GED as soon as possible. The agency is also scouring its records and trying to contact past students who have completed some, but not all, sections of the test.
Weaver said the new test is being piloted this year at one adult education center in each of Tennessee's three Grand Divisions.
Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, which oversees adult education programs, is urging students statewide to take the GED test before 2014.
"We encourage eligible Tennesseans who have not earned their GED to do so now," said Commissioner Karla Davis. "Beginning January 1, 2014, the GED test will cost more, must be taken on a computer, and will contain significant content changes."
The GED test "is undergoing its biggest overhaul since the credentialing test began in 1942," according to a state news release.
The test will be "more rigorous," according to the state, and will require higher math proficiency.
"The quality of the labor force is one of the most important factors that employers look at when they think about locating in a state, specifically, the education of the people who make up the labor force and their ability to deliver on the job," said Marva Doremus, Labor and Workforce Development Administrator for Adult Education, in a news release. "An educated workforce is critical to our future as a state. The only way we can grow Tennessee's economy is with the right workers.
"Last year, 56.6 percent of those issued a GED credential in Tennessee were between the ages of 17 and 25. These individuals have 50 years to be in the workforce. We need to move them forward into postsecondary or other job training programs."
"New jobs are not being created for those without a high school education," said Davis. "Unemployment rates are inversely related to the level of education a person has achieved. The more education a person has, the less likely he is to be unemployed. The same is true of income -- the income differences between a person who does not have a high school diploma or GED and a person who does are striking."
For more information about local GED programs, call Bedford County Adult Education at 684-8635.