NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

General Equivalency Degree is not Equivalent to Diploma

March 26, 2003

General Equivalency Degrees (GED) help identify people without a high school degree who have the motivation and cognitive ability to pursue opportunities that require a high school education. GED recipients, however, should not be combined with regular high school graduates in educational statistics, says Jay Greene.

"We should not suggest to people seeking the GED or their prospective employers or admissions committees that the GED is equivalent to a regular high school diploma," he says.

Although the GED gives students a chance at a post-secondary education, most GED recipients have difficulty succeeding at the next level:

  • Almost three-quarters of GED recipients who enroll in community college fail to complete their program compared to a 44 percent failure rate among regular high school graduates.
  • In a four-year college the prospects for GEDs are much worse; 95 percent of GED recipients who enroll in a four-year college fail to finish compared to 25 percent of regular high school graduates.

Given that the GED process does not require a significant amount of time learning material, does not require students to be disciplined and have a strong work ethic and does not demand high academic achievement, we should not expect to find that receiving a GED, on its own, makes a very big difference in the life-outcomes of its recipients, Greene says.

Other researchers have found the GED closes the earnings gap by a small amount. But no research claims that the life-outcomes for GED recipients are equivalent to those of regular high school graduates, says Greene.

Source: Jay Green, "The GED Myth," Spring/Summer 2002, Texas Education Review.

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