ALBANY – Albany Technical College is changing the way that people without high school diplomas can achieve the goal of getting a high school equivalency, while also getting training in 39 career programs. This new initiative offers an innovative path to earn a high school education and at the same time obtain skills training in high-demand fields with better-than-average salaries.
“The Career Plus High School Equivalency program recognizes that adult learners have specific needs and life obligations that should be addressed so that they can be successful,” Albany Tech President Anthony Parker said in a news release. “This program will allow students to obtain credit for skills already mastered, get assistance with textbook costs, and gain career skills at the same time they are earning a high school credential.
“The faculty and staff at Albany Tech have worked very hard to reduce or eliminate the barriers for those who are ready to complete their high school education and enter into a career field that will provide them a living wage. We have an obligation to be the engine for that change in the lives of our students. In turn, we will be developing a skilled and employable work force for our community.”
The new Career Plus High School Equivalency (HSE) is a pilot program within the Technical College System of Georgia. Program organizers say plans are for Career Plus HSE to be expanded to all 22 colleges in the system when results from five pilot sites are evaluated and maximized. One important program innovation is that it allows students to combine previously earned credits from high school and completed portions of the GED exam to obtain their high school equivalency. This newly created path gives students the flexibility to fill gaps from previous high school or adult education classes and potentially earn a high school credential in less time.
In southwest Georgia, Albany Technical College is expanding this concept with a “Joint Enrollment” pathway. A student who does not have a GED or high school diploma can begin taking “gateway” classes at the college while they earn their GED or high school equivalency. Joint enrollment also offers students a five-step process to complete a diploma or move on to a degree of their choice in 39 programs of interest.
“With HSE and joint enrollment, ATC will be graduating more qualified students into the southwest Georgia economy with the skills that are in demand at local business and industry,” Parker said. “This is bound to be a win-win situation because more families will start to earn living wages, which translates to increased family stability and economic spending within the community.”
A student who enters the pilot Career Plus HSE initiative automatically qualifies for financial aid through the HOPE Career Grant program. However, this amount may not cover all of the costs. Once the student chooses a program of interest, they will need to maintain a “C” or higher grade-point average in two specified gateway classes to qualify for additional federal financial aid (Pell Grant). This opportunity enables the student to avoid traditional entry testing and move directly into the remainder of the program’s curriculum because they have shown an “ability to benefit” from the program with acceptable performance in the first two college career classes.
To support this new initiative, the Albany Tech Foundation has provided $25,000 to establish a lending library of textbooks/media supplies for students entering the program who need assistance in that area. The lending library will be stocked with books and other program media that can be checked out at no cost to eligible adult education students and retained for the length of the course. This new resource will be housed on campus at the Anthony O. Parker, Ph.D. Library/Media Center in the Logistics Education Center.
“Albany Tech identified that creating this new lending library would be a very positive and supportive element to the new adult education strategies,” Glenn A. Singfield Sr., president of the Albany Tech Foundation Board of Trustees, said. The foundation trustees unanimously agreed to support the adult education lending library to help students complete their studies. It eliminates the cost of textbooks as one barrier to completing an education.”
TCSG Commissioner Greg Dozier, under the direction of Gov. Brian Kemp, introduced new adult education initiatives in late January 2020 with the pilot of Career Plus HSE in five technical college sites across the state. At that time, TCSG officials stated that since 1946, passing the GED exam was the only way to earn a high school equivalency credential in Georgia. In 2014, many other states began offering alternatives such as additional standardized tests and credit-based pathways to provide more options for their students. Beginning in February, the innovative adult education programs for Georgia were launched with Career Plus HSE pilots at Albany Technical College, Athens Technical College, Central Georgia Technical College, Columbus Technical College and Savannah Technical College.
In addition to Career Plus HSE, TCSG’s Office of Adult Education also will begin offering a second standardized test — the HiSET — as another avenue to earn a high school credential. The HiSET is a nationally recognized standardized test developed by the Educational Testing Service that is aligned with the College and Career Ready Standards for Adult Education. Twenty-three states already offer the HiSET as an option to earn a high school equivalency credential. Students can prepare for both the GED and HiSET by attending free exam prep classes at one of TCSG’s adult education providers located throughout the state.
“All of these new pathways and advancements are designed to support the adult learner who has the desire to get that high school credential and make way for more opportunities and advancement in their career,” Parker said. “We are now equipped as never before to support and assist our community with obtaining career training and high school credentials.”