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Diploma equals jobs
For high school drop outs, the GED isnt an easy solution but one worth pursuing

Where to find out more about GEDs and classes

The GED Testing Program in Georgia is joining administered by GED Testing Service, LLC, and the Technical College System of Georgia.

To register for a GED, visit or call (877) EXAM GED.

Classes and tests are available in Newton County through Newton County Reads, 8134 Geiger St., NW, Suite 5, Covington; (678) 342-7943; or the Covington-Newton County Center, Georgia Technical College, 16200 Alcovy-Jersey Rd., Covington, (404) 297-9522, ext. 4000.

In Rockdale County, the Rockdale Career Academy of Georgia Piedmont Technical College, 1064 Culpepper Drive, Conyers, (404) 297-9522, ext. 4000.

For more information about Adult Basic Education and GED Preparation Classes in both Newton and Rockdale counties, contact Leigh Garza at garzal@gptc.educ, or contact the Georgia GED Testing Program at (800) 94MY GED or (404) 679-1645.

There are four subject areas in the GED exam: science, social studies, mathematical reasoning and reasoning through language arts. The exam consists of multiple choice questions, reading, short answers and some extended response questions. A calculator is only allowed for one part of the mathematics exam.

The four-part test takes about seven-and-a-half hours to complete.

Each section costs $40. If the person does not pass the test, they can take it two more times without waiting. After the third attempt, there’s a 60-day waiting period before being able to take the test again.

Residents of Georgia who pass the GED exam (and meet other criteria) are eligible to receive a $500 GED HOPE Grant to be used toward the costs of post-secondary education (


It’s can be someone’s second chance.

The General Education Diploma (GED) gives someone who dropped out of high school the chance to get a diploma, something most employers look for when they hire someone. That diploma can mean a $200 difference in weekly earnings, according to a 2011 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the statistics, a worker without a high school degree earned an average of $451 per week, while a employee with a diploma earned $638.

Most people who decide to earn a GED do it because they “recognize that if they don’t, they don’t have much of a chance for jobs,”  Dr. Jackie Echols, Director of Adult Education at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, said. “For the vast majority, they realize that without a high school diploma, they’re destined to work for minimum wage.”

“Having a GED is a huge step towards employment and towards education,” Alison Tyrer, Director of Communications for the Technical College System of Georgia, said. “Having a GED increases employability. By having that degree, it helps people live their lives, they have so many opportunities opened to them.”

It is a problem, not just for individuals, but for cities, counties and states hoping to attract new or expanding businesses—and jobs—to an area.

“Work force is the number one requirement of any business you can think of, especially one that is expanding or relocating,” Tyrer said. “An educated work force is critical for a region, for the state and for the country.”

In Georgia, 18 percent of the population does not have a diploma. That number increases to 19 percent in Newton County, but drops to 16 percent in Rockdale County. The numbers can be staggering. In Newton County, males with less than a ninth grade education number 1,728, while females in the same group number 1,870. In Rockdale County, 1,861 males and 1,340 females have less than a ninth grade education.

The numbers increase in the population who attended 9th through12th grade without earning a diploma. In Newton County, 4,665 males and 4,580 females fall into that category, while 3,167 Rockdale males and 3,005 females are in that group.

There are a number of reasons why people don’t earn a high school diplma, Echols said, including family problems, making bad decisions and getting involved with the wrong crowd. “There is a laundry list of reasons why people don’t get their diploma.”

By the time they realize that the lack of a diploma may have serious consequences on their ability to earn money and quality of life, the person has responsibilities like a family to support, a job to maintain or other factors that impact available time, she said.

The GED itself is a four-part test, with a section each on social studies, science, language and mathematics. Each section costs $40, and students must score 150 or above on each section of the test. A sample test is available online at Those interested in taking the test, must be 18 and older. For those 16 to 18 years-old, it’s possible to take the GED tests, but there are extra steps.

“We want people to stay in school,” Echols said.

There is no requirement to take any classes to prepare for the text. Echols said about 80 percent of adults coming to the Georgia Piedmont Technical College adult education center to take the GED are walk ins who have not taken any preparation courses. But the test, which was revised in 2014, is rigorous and emphasize high level thinking and critical thinking skills.

“There is a move among the manufacturing industries towards [hiring] folks with higher level thinking skills and computer skills,” Echols said. “I think it’s great.

“The reality is that’s not where most adult-age students are. For the ones who dropped out of school between 10th and 12th grade, they dropped out at a time when they could have gotten some of the skills employees are looking for.”

Those with higher level thinking skills have a better chance of taking advantage of the return of manufacturing to the United States, she said.

Higher level thinking skills includes logic, critical thinking, reflection and creativity. These skills allow a person to understand information they receive and apply that to a job or project. For testing purposes, high level thinking is demonstrated through questions that require the person to read a problem, determine what information is being sought and how to apply what they read to achieving the goal.

“It’s very challenging,” Echols said. “The best way to take the test is to prepare for it.”

GED prep classes are offered free through Georgia Piedmont Technical College, and every college in the technical college system has an adult literacy program, which includes the GED preparation classes. Some classes are also available online, but there are fees associated with them.

Even with the free classes, Echols said, many adults struggle to earn the GED. “Everyone comes with the idea of getting the GED,” she said. “Most don’t get it. Most don’t have the time or don’t realize that it will take longer than they anticipate.

“I always make a point to tell them that you have to commit to this,” she said.

When students enroll for the classes, an assessment is done on each person. “Most of the students test out at a fourth through seventh grade level,” Echols said. “This is across the state.”

Those coming into the program reading at a sixth grade level can probably get their GED in a year, if they commit to coming eight to 10 hours a week for studying and work at home, she said. “They will stop and come back. There’s no penalty. We don’t turn people away.”

The classes are self-paced, and there are sites throughout the four-county area Georgia Piedmont Technical College serves. Classes are offered day and night, both semesters and in the summer.

“When I give talks at registration,” Echols said, “I tell them you have to want this as much as we do. Only they can get it done.”

In 2014, 141 adults earned GEDs in Newton County, and 108 earned them in Rockdale County. Despite the availability of the GED predatory classes offered through the technical college system, only two percent of the population 18 and older without a high school diploma or GED in Newton and Rockdale counties took advantage of the courses.

According to the American Council on Education, about 95 percent of U.S. colleges and universities accept GED’s as readily as a high school diploma. The statistics also suggest that two out of every three people taking the GED test plan to obtain additional information.

Georgia Piedmont Technical College has introduced a new program, the Georgia Piedmont Advantage. “Students who are eligible, who don’t have a diploma, can earn a GED and a technical certificate in one of four fields in about 14-weeks,” Echols said. “It’s an accelerated program. You have to come every day and have to read at a 9th grade level.”

The experience gives individuals a taste of what college is like, Echols said. “That’s the whole point of the program—to introduce them to college and show them they can do both. A lot of them transition to college, which is what we want to have happen.”