Kentucky will start waiving testing fees for people wanting to obtain a GED diploma to help thousands of adults improve their career opportunities, Gov. Andy Beshear said last week. And Lyon County's adult education coordinator is excited about the opportunities this may provide local residents.
"I hope we earn several more GEDs with this promotion," said Natalie McPherson, coordinator of Lyon County Skills U, which serves Lyon and Livingston counties and the Ross Cash Correctional Complex. "I can usually find a way to help them pay for their tests even without a promotion. This just makes it easier on me because I know that there is funding available."
The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet has allotted $600,000 in state funding to waive test fees to eliminate a financial barrier for people seeking GED diplomas. In Kentucky, more than 335,000 adults lack a high school or GED diploma. The fee being waived is $120, and the waiver applies to first-time test takers.
"The majority of my students need financial help in paying for their GED," said McPherson. "Any time the state rolls out incentives, we see a boost in interest and a few more GEDs. After all, $120 is a great deal of money for all of us, but especially for our GED students who work in low income jobs."
McPherson likes to use opportunities such as this to contact students who may have abandoned the process of earning a GED and attempt to get them back into the center to finish what they started.
"Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," she added.
The funding could help about 5,000 Kentuckians secure GED diplomas this year, Beshear said. Many people lacking a high school or GED diploma are "stuck in a cycle where they can't get the job to have the dollars to pay the fees for the GED they need to get a better job," he said.
"By eliminating this barrier, by making sure that no one is denied the opportunity to take the test because of the fees that go along with it, we are going to help so many adults," he said.
Adults lacking high school or GED diplomas are twice as likely to be unemployed and three times as likely to live in poverty, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said.
McPherson said about 30 percent of the 50 or so people Lyon County Skills U serves each year earn a GED. Five people so far in 2020 have earned their general education diploma and several more have begun taking and passing sections of the test.
The Skills U coordinator is urging those interested in earning a GED to hurry before the free testing is gone.
"I am urging anyone interested to act quickly because the funding is going fast," she said. "A delay could mean missing out on an opportunity that doesn't come along very often."
Lyon County Skills U can be reached by calling 270-388-2158 or emailing email@example.com.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)