Indiana will provide local adult education programs reimbursement for test fees for students who take the high school equivalency through December 30, according to Marilyn Pitzulo, associate chief of adult education, of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
To qualify, students must be Indiana residents, currently enrolled in an adult education program, and have successful scores on a practice exam.
Funding is through the CARES Act and will cover up to $95 for the exam at test centers.
Local adult education personnel believe that additional funding will be a boost. At Indianapolis’ Wayne Township adult education, Christy McIntyre-Gray, program coordinator, is hopeful they will be able to increase the number of high school equivalencies.
“Many of our career training programs require the HSE (high school equivalency), such as medical and dental assisting and sterile processing as well as some CDL and computer training programs,” said Bernadette Chilcote, Wayne Township’s career training supervisor.
In northeast Indiana, the lack of a high school credential often puts students at a disadvantage, according to Fort Wayne Community Schools’ adult education teacher Kathy Divelbiss.
“Undereducated and economically disadvantaged individuals face multiple barriers to improving the lives of their families by lacking their high school diploma. The HSE is a gateway to further financial progress for many community members,” she said.
Colleague Linda Bell echoed the benefits of completing the high school equivalency exam.
“For the cost of an HSE diploma, which opens the doors for a new and promising career, is the cost of food on the table, gas in the car to get to the present low paying job, (and) medicine for children. Choices (must) be made. The door to open the new career is the HSE diploma. This grant enables students to see that their dreams can become a reality,” she said.
An adult educator in northwest Indiana said it was heart breaking for students to spend hours in class preparing for the exam but come up short because they could not afford to pay for the test.
“Teachers often paid for some students out of their own pocket,” admitted Kitty Meyer of the Center of Workforce Innovations. She said teachers later discovered that students were even picking up cans on the roadside to scrape together enough money.
The CARES Act funding for HSE test fees could not come at a better time. Hoosiers without a high school credential are finding it even more difficult to land back on their feet as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into late summer, said Amy Wood, executive director of the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy,
“During the COVID pandemic, our communities are struggling with job loss, temporarily or permanently, depending on the field,” Wood said. “For those who have managed to work up until now without a high school diploma will now find it difficult to find a job making a livable wage, so the state’s HSE test fees program will take away the barrier of cost of the test that will open doors to their future.”
“Assisting (students) by covering the cost of their test moves them that much farther along in obtaining life goals, including a better job, a stronger workplace skillset, and a more prosperous life,” said Lafayette teacher Cheryl S. Morris.
The HSE grant reinforces that Indiana is willing to support students in their educational journey and that a degree can be a huge difference in earning potential, added Caroline Foster, assistant adult education director of Impact Institute in Kendallville.
“I would love to see the program continue (after December 30),” said Konnie McCollum, director of adult education of River Valley Resources in southern Indiana. “It has truly helped bridge a major barrier for our students.”