"My goal right now is to get it as fast as I can."
Emanuel Estrada is college bound.
"I want to study art, because I'm really into art."
He is working to pass the GED by the end of the year, before changes to the testing jeopardize his future.
"Right now it's a paper test and in the state of Arkansas, it's free. We're one of the very few states where it is free.... Beginning in 2014, there will be a charge. The test is going to cost between $100 to $120 at least. It could be higher and so, we're pretty concerned about that... If they don't pass the test, they'll have to pay every time they retake it," said Ben Aldama, Dean of Adult Education for Northwest Arkansas Community College.
For several students, those dollars are the difference when deciding whether to continue their education.
"I wouldn't be here. I'm just doing it right now because it's free," said Estrada.
The state has been picking up testing costs throughout the years, and Aldama said the changes are coming from a national level. GED Testing Service has partnered with Pearson VUE, a test publishing company. The new partnership, is passing the bill to students.
"A lot of the adults need that test either for college admission, or to get a job or to advance on their current job. I'm afraid it's going to hurt our students."
So while the test is still free, Aldama wants to see NWACC's 97-percent pass rate continue, sending GED graduates out the door.
"Right now there are five parts, and we give the test one section at a time. If students have completed four out of five, if they don't finish that last test they'll have to start over... We are really encouraging people to please come out and finish the test right now."
Aldama said administrators are already talking about ways to curb the cost for students, whether it is through scholarships or with support from foundations.
Another change to the test, is a shift in technology. Students will be ditching pencils and paper to take the test on computers.
"It will be a computer based test. Right now it's paper and pencil. I think that's going to be a big change for a lot of adult students who maybe do not have the computer skills that they might need for the test."
But Estrada said while testing on a computer screen and keyboard will be more difficult for him, he also sees it as at chance to brush up his skills.
"It will be worth it, because you get to navigate the computer more."
According to Aldama, NWACC offers free classes to prepare for the test and there are adult education programs in Springdale and Fayetteville as well.
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