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A High School Diploma or a GED?

We sat down with Ray McNulty, Chief Learning Officer at Penn Foster, to get the scoop on the GED and online high school diplomas

Q: What exactly is a GED? How is it different from a high school diploma?

A: The GED stands for General Education Development, and is a high school equivalency program recognized throughout the United States. Before changes were enacted in January 2014, it consisted of five tests that focus on different subjects. To pass the tests and receive a GED, you need to receive a combined score of at least 2250. Historically, it has been a good option for those who could not or did not want to pursue traditional high school diplomas.

Unfortunately, there are employers that do not always accept GEDs; the U.S. military is very strict and limits the number of enlistees with a GED each year.

Q: What are the new changes coming for the GED in 2014?

A: As of January, 2014, the GED will be taken entirely on a computer. It will also be graded on two categories: high school content and career and college readiness scores. For career and college readiness, there will be four content areas for scoring: literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. The price has also increased to be up to $120, depending in which state it is being administered.

Q: What is the advantage of online education, like with Penn Foster?

A: The aim of education is not to be successful in school, but to be successful in your life outside of school and in the workforce.

Online learning platforms, such as Penn Foster, are now a great option for students who need a system that adapts to their lives and their schedules. Help from great technology means that a GED is no longer the only alternative educational option. Penn Foster’s diploma programs merge technology and education content to fit into your schedule. You're well prepared with a diploma from Penn Poster, which includes a robust online student Community and help from faculty and instructors.

I recently visited students in Brooklyn, NY, who are part of the Job Corps program, offering both high school diplomas and GEDs for underserved youth. Most of the students I spoke with considered having a high school diploma as an advantage in the job search. “Every job you go to, they want to know—do you have a high school diploma?” one student said. These students see the long term benefits and said they are enthusiastic about pursuing high school diplomas.

Q: What are the differences between a GED and a high school diploma?

A: In terms of cost, a GED is generally more affordable and costs $80-$120, an increase as of January, 2014. Online diploma programs vary; Penn Foster's programs range from $995 to $1495. It can cost much less depending on a student's previous experience and earned credits.

In terms of time spent, a GED is faster since it is a test instead of an educational program. But online high school diploma programs don’t have to take the traditional four years to complete, and can be much quicker depending on a student's previous experience. And online programs don't require class times or locations. A GED program requires you attend review sessions and go to a test center.

Some post-secondary schools may accept GED holders only on a limited basis, or even have alternative requirements for applicants without a high school diploma. As mentioned before, the Military does not accept many enlistees with just a GED. For example, the Air Force requires GED enlistees to wait for open slots. These individuals also must score 65 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, compared to 36 for those with high school diplomas.

For Penn Foster High School's online programs, the community is there and with social media, the environment’s even better. Online does not mean you are alone. A diploma is very connected to what the workforce is looking for.

Q: I can’t afford any of the online program options. What should I do

A:If you can't get the opportunity to take an online program like Penn Foster, or cost and scheduling gets in the way, then find a GED center and ask how they can work to help you.

The GED or the diploma should not be seen as the end of the game. Why are you doing it and what do you want to accomplish?

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