TOPEKA — The cost of not finishing high school is going up.
With some regrets, Kansas regents today approved a 25 percent increase in the cost of taking the General Educational Development exam. Under the board’s action, the price for taking the GED will rise from $68 to $85 as of July 1.
The measure passed unanimously after less than three minutes of discussion.
But one regent said after the meeting that he’d wished he’d asked more questions, given the fragile economy and the fact that many GED takers are very-low-income people trying to improve their employability in the tight job market.
“I messed up,” said Regent Jerry Boettcher, of Manhattan. “This is another barrier. We should be trying to remove barriers. In hard times, we ought to do everything we can to enable people to get their GED.”
He said he had intended to ask how much money the increased testing fee would generate, and if it were only a small amount, whether there might be a way to divert money from elsewhere in the budget to keep the testing fee at its current level.
Regents’ staff today could not determine how many people have taken the test or project how much money would come from increasing the fee.
Last year, 1,311 individuals passed the test in Kansas, said board spokesman Kip Peterson.
Had they paid the higher fee, it would have generated slightly less than $23,000 in additional revenue.
But despite his misgivings, Boettcher said “it’s a done deal and I don’t think it’s likely to be reconsidered.”
Gary Alexander, vice president of academic affairs for the regents, said the price increase was prompted by increases in the cost of giving the test.
“One is that our vendor who scores the paper tests is raising his rates and we have no other options,” Alexander said. “And the national GED testing service is also looking to increase its rates for the fiscal year 2012 contract year.”
The GED, also known as the general equivalency diploma, is a battery of tests that allow people who didn’t finish high school to demonstrate their proficiency in the skills required of a high-school graduate. The five tests include math, reading, writing, science and social studies.
Passing the GED is accepted as equal to a high-school education by about 95 percent of employers and colleges across the country, according to the American Council on Education, which administers the test nationwide.
In addition to setting the price of taking the test, the regents also reset the cost of retaking it.
Local agencies that perform the testing will be allowed to charge $75 to $85 for retests. Regent Janie Perkins said she strongly supported giving local testing stations the option of a lower fee for retests.
“I really like the range on retaking,” she said during the meeting. “A lot of times, they may pass two sections of it and may be only lacking the one, so hopefully, this way, a lot of individuals will go back and finish up.”
After the meeting, she said she voted for the increase because it marks a balance between keeping costs low and still being able to run an effective program.
She said at the testing center in her hometown of Garden City, “I know that they make every effort to help individuals who can’t pay the fee.”
The regents meeting will continue Thursday morning, with the board scheduled to finalize tuition increases throughout the state university system to offset a $10 million cut in state support and $13 million in cost increases.
The proposed tuition increases for resident undergraduates range from 4 percent at Kansas State and Fort Hays State universities, to 6.9 percent at Emporia State.
Other proposed increases include: Wichita State, 6 percent; Pittsburg State, 6.8 percent; and University of Kansas, 5-6.2 percent depending on the campus and program.
The board is also expected to approve similar increases for graduate students.