28 March, 2017
The path to high school graduation can come with many roadblocks, like health issues, poverty, failing grades or a negative environment. Though graduation rates are increasing nationwide, data from the U.S. Census Bureau states that almost 12 percent of Alabama adults ages 25-64 do not have their high school diploma. A new partnership between the Alabama Community College System and the Alabama State Department of Education is working to improve that statistic.
The nontraditional High School Diploma Option (HSDO) program is offered at Gadsden State Community College and is for those who dropped out of high school without earning the required number of credits or failed portions of the now-retired Alabama High School Graduation Exam.
“The new program provides students an alternative to the GED test as high school equivalency,” said Dr. Karen Blythe Smith, director of Adult Education Services at Gadsden State. “Because of the importance of the high school diploma credential in the workforce, this program creates another avenue that students can utilize to meet that goal.”
The HSDO program provides two options to earn a high school diploma. Option 1 is for a former student who attended an Alabama high school and completed the number of credits needed for graduation but did not pass all sections of the graduation exam. The participant must have completed the number of credits required for graduation from the high school they attended.
Option 2 is for a former student who earned a minimum of 10 credits from an Alabama high school and requires additional credits needed for graduation. The student must be a minimum age of 17 and must be assessed on the Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE). The score must be in the high intermediate level or above, which is the equivalent of sixth grade.
Since the HSDO program started on Sept. 29, more than 500 adults in Alabama are pursuing their high school diploma. More than 100 adults have already completed program requirements for their diploma. Smith said Gadsden State currently has 18 students enrolled in HSDO with an additional 60 students in the process of demonstrating eligibility to participate in the program.
The first step in participating in the HSDO program is to complete a transcript request, which can be obtained from either the high school the student last attended or from Gadsden State’s Adult Education program. When the high school transcript is received by Gadsden State, the remaining program eligibility criteria will be addressed.
“Most of our students who have not met the eligibility requirements yet are simply waiting on their transcript and transcript audit form from the high school they attended,” Smith said. “Once all eligibility requirements are met, the student will meet with our staff to develop a plan of instruction to fulfill the requirements for the selected option.”
The option pursued by the student is determined on an individual basis. Scores on the GED, ACT WorkKeys and TABE are considered as well as prior work experience and successful completion of the Ready-to-Work program at Gadsden State.
Once the student completes all requirements for the diploma, it will be awarded by the high school they last attended and their high school transcript will be updated to reflect the credential.
“I want to stress the importance of preparing our students to be productive members of the workforce in Alabama by giving them opportunities to obtain a high school diploma,” Smith said. “Earning a diploma is a very important part of the overall process.”
She said there are a number of reasons – besides increased marketability in the workplace – to earn a high school diploma.
“A diploma is a stepping stone to a technical certification or an associate or higher degree,” she said. “It can be a ticket to a higher salary, too.”
According to the American Community Survey’s five-year estimates of Alabama counties, the median earnings for those with a diploma are up to $13,000 more a year than someone without one.
Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states the unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma is 50 percent higher than for those with a high school diploma.
“It is evident that a diploma leads to wonderful opportunities,” Smith said. “You’re more likely to live above the poverty line so you have the option to purchase a home and a car. You also have a better chance of having a job that gives you access to health insurance and medical care. Your diploma makes you a more well-rounded, successful person with a sense of achievement.”
For more information about the HSDO program or the Adult Education Program, visit www.gadsdenstate.edu or call 256-549-8357 or 256-835-5463.