Many G.E.D. Candidates Plan College, Survey Finds

By Mark Pitsch — February 27, 1991 3 min read

Washington--Four out of every 10 people who took the General Educational Development tests in 1989, including nearly 50 percent of traditional college-age candidates, planned to enroll in a two-year or four-year postsecondary school, according to a report issued by the American Council on Education.

Thirty-one percent of the 614,000 U.S. test-takers in 1989 reported that they planned to enroll in a community or junior college, the report says. Another 11 percent said they were going to enroll in a four-year school.

Of the g.e.d. candidates between the ages of 18 and 24--the traditional age range of students at postse4condary institutions--34 percent said they planned to enroll in a community or junior college and 13 percent said they would attend a four-year college or university, the report says. Over all, the report indicates that about 151,000 test-takers of traditional age that year planned to attend college.

Another 25 percent of the overall candidates said that they would enroll in a business, trade, or technical school, according to the report.

The report is the second in a series of seven monographs containing data from a 1989 survey of g.e.d. candidates. In addition to educational plans, the report reveals data on the age, sex, disabilities, educational attainment, and study patterns of candidates.

Last fall, the a.c.e., which operates the program, urged the states and the federal government to implement a wide array of new policies to reverse a steep decline in the number of young adults seeking to acquire g.e.d. certificates. (See Education Week, Oct. 24, 1990.)

The g.e.d. program, created in 1942, gives adults the opportunity to earn the equivalent of a high-school diploma. The g.e.d. certificate is used by most colleges and universities in their admissions processes, and by many employers.

In 1989, 683,000 people worldwide took g.e.d. tests. More than 375,000 passed the exam and earned the certificate.

Janet Baldwin, senior research associate at the g.e.d. testing service and the report’s author, said the most recent report indicates that the population taking the g.e.d. test “is not a homogeneous population. They are very diverse.”

About 62 percent of those who took the test in 1989 were age 24 or younger. Five percent were 45 or older. Fifty-six percent of the candidates were women, but of those age 24 or younger, men and women were about equally represented. About one in four candidates under age 17 were members of minorities, as were 31 percent of those ages 18 to 44.

First Data on Disabled

The report, which includes the first data on disabled g.e.d. candidates, notes that people with disabilities were more likely to drop out of high school than their fully abled classmates.

Seven percent of those surveyed in 1989 said they had a disability. Nineteen percent of the disabled test-takers said they had a “specific learning disability,” while 18 percent said they had an “orthopedic handicap” and 13 percent said they were hard of hearing. Eleven percent reported an “emotional disability.”

Ms. Baldwin called the report a “starting point” for further research on g.e.d. candidates with disabilities.

The report also says that nearly 70 percent of all test-takers surveyed had finished at least the 10th grade, and that more than 75 percent reported receiving grades of “mostly C” or higher.

Candidates ages 18 to 24 had the highest rate of completing at least 10 grades, 78 percent. Eighty-seven percent of the Asian/Pacific Islander candidates, 79 percent of black candidates, 68 percent of white candidates, and 66 percent of Hispanic candidates reported finishing at least 10th grade.

Asians (84 percent), blacks (82 percent), and Hispanics (78 percent) were more likely than whites (72 percent) to say they earned grades of “mostly C” or better while in school, the report says.

Ms. Baldwin said the data on high-school achievement raise questions about why students drop out. Those questions will be dealt with in the next report, she added.

“The level of schooling reported by candidates was relatively high compared with what people think of people who drop out of high school,’' she said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I think there’s a public perception about people who drop out of school; they’re seen as people who can’t make it.”

In addition, 84 percent of all candidates said they studied before taking the tests. More women studied than men, and more blacks and Hispanics studied than did Asians or whites.

Copies of the report, “Schooling, Study, and Academic Goals: The Education of ged Candidates,” are available for $65 each from the a.c.e., Publications Dept. PAT, One Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036. Copies of the earlier report are also available.

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 1991 edition of Education Week as Many G.E.D. Candidates Plan College, Survey Finds