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Economy Forces Adults To Get GEDs, Diplomas


Education officials in the Poway Unified School District say there's a silverlining to all the bad economic news -- more adults are heading back to school to get their General Educational Development degree or high school diploma. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis has more.

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(Photo: Adult education student Sarah Gardella studies English to take her GED test at the PowayAdultSchool. Ana Tintocalis/KPBS)

 Every year the Poway Adult School holds what's called Drop-In Day for teenagers and adults who dropped out of high school. It's their chance to get free counseling to get their academic life back on track. Maria Lopez is mother of two from Mexico. She says she needs a GED so she can earn more money. Lopez worries about the coursework.

Lopez: I don't know how hard it is. But I need to try. I have to pay my bills and everything, my house.

Lopez is not alone. Adult school counselors expect Drop-In Day numbers to double this year.

Assistant principal David Boulware says that's because the bad economy is complicating job searches.

Boulware: With the economy, the competition for jobs is tougher. They're (adult education students) are realizing it. And they're finding out they can't go anywhere without this education completed. Its just harder, even for lower paying jobs. Competition is such that people are hiring people who have this education.

And Boulware says employers are being even more selective, favoring a high school diploma over a GED. Twenty-five-year-old Pierre Penaloza dropped out of high school as a freshman to help his mom pay the bills. Now he's hoping a diploma will help him earn a better job and more respect.

Penaloza: I had to start high school from zero here. So (the counselors) said, 'GED...six months or high school diploma...about two years.' So I decided high school diploma. Because you realize that you don't have the respect of people.

Educators say 98 percent of students who go through Poway Unified's adult ed program get their GED. But they say while the demand for adult education is going up, the services they offer could be going down as a result of proposed state budget cuts.

Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News.

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