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New law will increase educational access for adults, bring successful diploma programs to Illinois

A new law was signed recently that will enable adults who did not finish high school to acquire high school diplomas. The law also allows for the creation of quality adult diploma programs.

The new law allows adults of any age to take advantage of certified programs in order to earn a high school diploma. Currently, those older than age of 21 who did not finish high school cannot receive a high school diploma; a GED is the only option available to adult learners seeking to obtain high school equivalency.

Proponents of House Bill 2527 say a high school diploma is more advantageous than a GED because it equips adults with better skills for postsecondary education and the workplace.

Additionally, provisions in the new law pave the way for the creation of Excel Centers, like the Goodwill Excel Center opening in Rockford. Modeled after a successful program in Indiana, Excel Centers allow adult learners to not only earn high school diplomas, but offers the option of career and technical education classes and dual-enrollment credits. Graduates of Excel Centers have been shown to earn much higher wages than those without a high school diploma.

An estimated 1 million Illinoisans lack a high school diploma or GED. According to figures reported by Statistical Atlas based on 2015 U.S. Census Data, 13 percent of Illinois adults ages 25 or older do not possess a high school diploma. Unfortunately, the data shows certain minority populations are disproportionately represented in not possessing high school equivalency credentials. Respectively, 14.9 percent and 18.8 percent of female and male African-Americans, and 37.5 percent and 39.9 percent of female and male Hispanic residents are without a high school degree in Illinois.

According to U.S. Census data reported in 2012, “In 2009, 16.9 million adults earned a GED certificate to satisfy their high school requirements. While 73 percent of those who received a high school diploma went on to complete at least some postsecondary education, less than half (43 percent) of GED certificate recipients did so. Furthermore, only 5 percent earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. In contrast, of high school diploma holders, 33 percent earned this level of education.” Additionally, high school diploma holders earned approximately $4,700 in mean monthly earnings compared with GED certificate holders, who earned $3,100.

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