June 15, 2011

Earn your GED your way

People who are interested in earning their GED will have more options — including doing their course work online — starting July 1 in Wichita.

People who are interested in earning their GED will have more options — including doing their course work online — starting July 1 in Wichita.

Goodwill Industries and Wichita Area Technical College are teaming up to increase the number of people studying for the high school equivalency and the ways they can study for it — according to their "learning style," Gayle Goetz, vice president of development and career services for Goodwill Industries, said Tuesday.

Students ages 16 and up will have three ways to learn:

* A structured, classroom style.

* A flexible, self-paced style.

* Distance learning via the Internet.

Both Goodwill and WATC offer GED course work now, and students have had the ability to work more on their own or with more structure, but the online element will be new.

The programs also have had to turn people away because of lack of capacity and money. The new Learning Hub program could double the number of people pursuing their high school equivalency through the separate programs, Goetz said.

It's estimated that 60,000 adults in the area cannot read or write, she said, and it's one of Goodwill Industries' priorities to help reach them.

"People don't realize that the (Goodwill) stores' money goes to pay for something like this. Students pay just for books," Goetz said.

Bank of America on Monday gave Goodwill $10,000 for its education and training center programs.

Goodwill has about 100 adults currently working on their GED; 105 completed it through the Goodwill program last year, Goetz said.

The WATC program is the only GED program in the city to receive state aid. But an end to local school district aid has cut the number of people in the program by two-thirds since 2007, said Margaret Harris, associate vice president for adult literacy at the college.

The program served 492 people in all levels of adult literacy in 2010, with 43 receiving their GED. People had to be turned away because of lack of money, Harris said.

But the association with Goodwill will help both organizations share resources and expand access for students, Goetz said. For example, WATC classrooms will be available for students in the evening to better fit work schedules, Goetz said.

And Goodwill Industries' GED program has been serving only young people, ages 16 to 21. Under the new program, the age cap will be lifted, Goetz said.

Kansas School for Effective Learning, a private, nonprofit member of the United Way of the Plains, also teaches GED students in the Wichita area. Of the 562 students who passed the GED in Sedgwick County last year, 124 were from KANSEL.

Executive director Carolyn Bunch said the organization does not offer online learning.

"Most of our students don't have a computer," she said, and some don't know how to use one. But she said she was happy to hear of the new option for people pursuing their GED.

"If they're homebound or for whatever reason they cannot come in, that's great," Bunch said.

Students are able to take the GED test either by computer or on paper, she said.

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