By Michael Ormsby
The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a study based on newly released U.S. Census data showing that only 9% of Hispanic high school dropouts earn a GED® credential, which would give them the ability to qualify for more jobs, earn higher wages, or pursue higher education. In comparison, 20% of black high school dropouts and 29% of whites earn a GED diploma. In addition, Hispanic dropout rates are higher. Of Hispanic adults 20 and over in the United States, 41% do not have regular high school diplomas. This is a significant problem for the adult basic education system.
Occurring among the fastest-growing population demographic in the United States, this high percentage of dropouts with a low percentage of GED attainment is a serious concern. The most significant problem is among foreign-born Hispanics. Of foreign-born Hispanic adults, 52% are dropouts and may not know about the GED diploma or how to get it. Only 5% of foreign-born Hispanic adults without a high school degree earn a GED test credential. In 2008, this population was over 17 million, and the numbers keep growing.
While the study found a slightly higher unemployment rate among Hispanic GED-earners compared to high school graduates, it found that among those in the workforce, mean annual earnings were about the same. Among Hispanics who didn’t complete high school, the mean income of those who were employed full-time was $27,635. Among GED-earners with full-time employment, the mean income was $33,504. Among those with some college or more, the mean income was significantly higher, at $48,621. The most significant advantage of the GED diploma is the ability to pursue higher education and vocational training. Four in 10 dropouts who earn a GED diploma or other alternative high school credential pursue additional education, compared to only 1 in 10 dropouts who don’t.
There is clearly a need in adult education and literacy programs for outreach to Hispanic communities, especially immigrant communities, to communicate the importance of the GED test credential and provide support and preparation. The societal problems of a large undereducated adult population are enormous. Yet, communities are constantly faced with financial cuts to adult basic education and outreach programs, and adults struggling to survive in low-paying jobs rarely have the knowledge and resources to forge a path out of their situation.
GED test prep needs to be more easily fundable and accessible, and the key to this is technology and distance learning. Though undereducated Hispanic populations are also among those with least access to computers and the Internet, increasing access to technology, digital literacy, and GED test prep can be achieved together through effective and inexpensive distance education, for a better result. Outreach and education for millions of undereducated immigrants is a daunting task, and it requires a shift that only technology can provide.
Michael Ormsby is the president of The GED Academy and oversees software and curriculum for adult learners and people with educational challenges. For more information, visit passGED.com. Michael can be contacted by telephone at 800-460-8150.