More adults taking External Diploma route 10 are now enrolled in alternative to GED

October 10, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Adult enrollment in the county's External Diploma program -- an alternative to the traditional GED -- has risen to 10 this fall from four last year.

School system officials said the increase is probably due to recommendations from the growing pool of graduates since the program started in 1987; staff publicity for the program; and the opening of a satellite office in Mount Airy several months ago.

"When we have happy graduates, word of mouth is one of our best forms of advertising," said Robin Kujan, coordinator of the External Diploma program of the Carroll County school system. "It's a chain reaction."

The Mount Airy site has helped draw more South Carroll adults, she said.

The program also had an increase in inquiries. This year, there were 49 inquiries between July and September. Last year, 21 inquiries were received during that period.

Kujan said that many of those who inquire can start the program any time during the calendar year. It takes an average of seven months for most to complete it, but some finish within four months, Kujan said.

"We need to have a large number of applicants this time of year to have graduates in June," Kujan said.

The graduation ceremony in late June includes any adults who earn diplomas from one of the three programs Carroll County schools offer.

One-fifth of county adults do not have high school diplomas, according to the 1990 U.S. Census. The Alternative Programs office, through programs such as External Diploma, is trying to offer adults ways to earn diplomas while meeting the demands of jobs and families.

"People's lives are very busy, and our program accommodates a busy schedule," Kujan said.

The more traditional General Educational Development (GED) program is a series of subject-area tests, for which most candidates take preparatory courses.

The External Diploma program is one that some older adults prefer, because it allows them to apply life skills and work experience to assignments. Students work at home, at their own pace, and meet weekly for one hour with an adviser.

To earn a diploma, the candidate must demonstrate such skills as writing a resume, applying for a loan or writing to a legislator about an issue.

The Evening High School program is for students who have recently withdrawn from school and need only a few credits to graduate. Students in high school may also take classes at night to get credits or make up a failed course.

"We have been actively seeking more clients," Kujan said about the External Diploma program. "We don't have the name recognition that GED has."

When adults inquire at the school system's Alternative Programs office about completing a diploma, they are told about the three options.

Regina Kauffmann, coordinator of GED and adult general education, said GED programs in the county schools continue to have a strong enrollment. A direct enrollment comparison can't be made with the External Diploma program, she said, because there are other GED programs in the county besides the one offered by the school system.

"It's not that one has displaced the other," Kauffmann said. "I think it's more that we're seeing more people in general [realizing] they have to have a high school diploma -- or more -- to compete in the world."

Carroll is at the state average for the percentage of adults 25 and older with no diploma. The state average is 21.6 percent; Carroll's is 21.5 percent, or approximately 17,000 people. The U.S. average is 24.8 percent.

All figures are based on the 1990 U.S. Census, but are not believed to have changed much since then, said Debby Standiford, who works with the External Diploma program.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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