The Disastrous Effects of Privatizing the “GED” High School Equivalency Degree

Janet Page-Reeves, University of New Mexico

Obtaining a General Education Degree has long been critical for adults who did not graduate from high school. But now this program has been turned over to a for-profit corporation that has instituted new procedures and fees that cut off this path to advancement for low-income Americans.

Obtaining a GED has always been an important step in reducing economic inequality, because GED holders are much more likely to find work and enjoy better career prospects to support themselves and their families. Aspirants have always had to study and prepare for the test, but as Janet Page-Reeves explains in her new Key Findings brief, GED administration has recently been shifted from a non-profit organization to a for-profit company that has instituted more cumbersome procedures and higher fees. Corporate profits are growing, but the ranks of aspirants who took and passed the test plummeted from more than 500,000 in 2013 to less than 100,000 in 2014. Fewer people than ever are passing the test, or taking it at all, and that shrinks the ranks of U.S. adults who gain the many benefits GED degrees can bring for themselves, their families, and American society. At this point, reversing the privatization of the GED degree is probably not possible, but Page-Reeves calls for increased public funding for test prep and adult education programs, so that this path to a better economic future can be re-opened.

Janet Page-Reeves is Assistant Research Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, where she conducts collaborative applied research in Latino and Native communities. She has also studied women’s lives in New Mexico and Bolivia and has been a Fulbright Hayes Research Fellow, a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow, an Inter-American Foundation Fellow, and a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University. Page-Reeves serves on the Advisory Board for the Public Health and Poverty Initiative of KNME Public Radio and is a member of the New Mexico Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

October 2015