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The Price of a GED: A Casualty of Tough Fiscal Times?

Concern about the rising cost of a GED has been ricocheting around Georgia, where about 20,000 adults each year rely on that test for high school equivalency. But those accounts overlook a key factor that suggests the pain will spread much farther than Georgia.

First, a quick refresher: last month, Georgia announced that as of July, the price of the GED would rise from $95 to $250. If a student takes all five subjects—reading, writing, social studies, science and math—in one sitting, the cost goes down to $175. News reports attributed the hike to the American Council on Education, which administers the GED.

The ACE issued a statement to correct the record, noting that the GED is leased to each state, and states then set their own fees. GED Testing Service President Randy Trask said that Georgia and most other states have heavily subsidized the cost with tax dollars.

So in unusually tight budget times, Georgia very well might not be the only place where it's going to get more expensive to get a GED.

I wondered about this pricing issue, so I called the folks at the GED Testing Service. Daphne Atkinson, its senior director of marketing, said that the service has indeed announced changes in its price structures. The hike in the price of the paper-based test was announced last summer, and a new price structure for computer-based testing, which is being rolled out soon, has begun to make the rounds more recently. That could be why Georgia might represent just the first reaction as states figure out what to do.

Atkinson said that the average total cost of taking the paper-based GED—including security, scoring, credentialing and such—is about $150 per student. On average, test-takers around the country pay $75 each, so states have typically been subsidizing about half of the cost they incur, she said. Total projected costs for the computer-based model, she said, range from $140 per student when a test-taker takes all five tests in one sitting to $200 per student when they string out the tests over five appointments.

You might recall that computer-based testing, which we told you about in March, is part of the GED's "21st century initiative" to make the GED tougher and align to the common standards.

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