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College generally in favor of bill replacing GED with more specific state method

Feb 6, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The Wyoming House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would replace the general educational development equivalency diploma with a high school equivalency certificate for students in the state.

The bill now is before the Wyoming Senate.

Central Wyoming College President Jo Anne McFarland said House Bill 54 was developed after the well-known GED program was transferred to a for-profit entity that has since increased the cost of the exam.

"This essentially is to allow Wyoming to develop its own high school equivalency testing program," McFarland said during a CWC Board of Trustees meeting.

Though she generally favors the bill, McFarland said it could benefit from additional review. She said Jason Wood, CWC's executive vice president for student academic services, also had some reservations about the effects of the pending legislation.

"I think we need to be a little patient," Wood said. "It might be that the for-profit finds a way to bring the costs down rather quickly."

He suggested the state could set aside funding to help students pay for the more expensive GED test. Meanwhile, he said, educators could take the time needed to develop a state exam.

"Have something in the wings and see where we go from that," Wood said. "If we move too hastily, what will replace the GED?"

He also wondered whether a Wyoming-based certificate would be transferable to other states. He pointed out that the GED is recognized throughout the country.

"If a student takes the GED test here and moves to Colorado, it's recognized as a high school equivalency test and vice versa," Wood said. "If we do something in Wyoming, how do we ensure our citizens are going to be able to move out of state? Are we still going to maintain that acceptance of the GED from other states? ... There are bigger issues than simply saying we're going to have our own credential."

Fremont County School District 1 superintendent Mike Bowman also expressed concern about other states not recognizing a different test on a student's application. District 1 assistant superintendent John Metcalfe agreed but feels the change is reasonable.

"It gives the state and community colleges some flexibility," Metcalfe said.

Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, said Wyoming's high school equivalency test would be recognized in Colorado and other states. He voted for HB54 because it would lower the cost of the high school equivalency certificate for students, in part by letting more than one vendor compete for the opportunity to implement the test.

Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, said the cost to take the GED test will double under the for-profit company that now owns the program. He said HB54 would allow the state to negotiate with a provider to develop its own test, which he believes would be very similar to the GED.

"It will be the equivalent of the GED, in terms of testing content for students," Goggles said after the vote. "The certificate will also be utilized to determine eligibility for Hathaway scholarships."

HB54 was received for introduction to the Wyoming Senate and on Jan. 30 earned a "do-pass" recommendation in committee. IT has been placed on general file in the Senate to await further action. It is not anticipated to have a significant fiscal or personnel impact on the state.

Staff writer Christina George contributed to this report.