Minnesota students taking their General Education Development for the first time are able to take the test for free, thanks to the state Legislature.

Earlier this year, lawmakers allocated $240,000 for these test-takers, and the funds are quickly being used.

"That will last at least through December, but we're not sure if it's going to be available beyond that," said Brad Hasskamp, the Adult Secondary Credential and Policy Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education.

The GED includes four tests in reasoning through language arts, math, social studies and science. Each test for these subjects costs $30, or $120 for the full battery, and retakes are $10 a category. To earn a GED, the test-taker has to pass all four areas.

"The costs of these tests can sometimes make it hard for people with no resources to do them," Katelin Hanebuth wrote in a message to the Tribune. The Frazee resident took the tests earlier this month. "When I heard they were doing free ones it was kinda like 'well, what's my excuse now?'"

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Since offering these free tests for first-time takers, the number of testers from last year to this year is at least 20% higher, Hasskamp said. From July 1 to Oct. 10, Hasskamp said that they have had 1,713 people take all 4 parts of the GED. This amounts to 4,076 tests being taken and 670 being passed.

"A lot of people think it's an easier diploma, but it's actually harder to pass the GED than to pass high school," Detroit Lakes Adult Basic Education Coordinator Amy Fish said. "There's no shortcuts for the GED. The only way to pass is to master the content."

In the Detroit Lakes area, Fish said that 17 students took 44 tests and, as of Oct. 14, 40 of the tests were passed. These students are 17 years old or older; the most common local age of GED testers is 25 to 44.

In May, the Detroit Lakes Adult Basic Education (ABE) hosted a graduation ceremony for their students who passed their GED and/or earned ABE awards. (Courtesy photo)
In May, the Detroit Lakes Adult Basic Education (ABE) hosted a graduation ceremony for their students who passed their GED and/or earned ABE awards. (Courtesy photo)

When students inquire about taking the GED, Fish recommends that they go through an orientation and assessment so that she and her volunteers can give them an honest answer about how they need to prepare to pass the GED. They also require that students pass a practice test before they take the GED test in DL.

"Then we can set up face-to face tutoring ... or any combination that will be best for the student," Fish said.

Along with preparing for the GED test, Fish also helps local students with the monetary aspect.

"Detroit Lakes is a great community to be in. All the classes and tutoring support ... that is all free here ... (and) is generally free around the state," Fish said. "Money is never a reason not to take those tests in DL. If that's the reason that somebody is not testing, we will always find an agency that will support that student. That's pretty unique."

Some students come to the DL Adult Basic Education from 100 miles away. Transportation can be another monetary barrier, so Fish also offers bus tokens -- thanks to the United Way -- to help students get to her location. This is a short-term solution, as Fish says that "100 miles is too far for a student to come get that (GED) test done." She is working with others to try and get a mobile option offered for students like this who do not have a nearby testing site.

Local monetary support for GED students will be important when the funds for the free testing runs out, as Hasskamp expects it to. The free-first test option will return on July 1, 2020, again lasting until it runs out. After that, the state Legislature will decide whether to continue the free-first tests, but Hasskamp and Emily Bisek, the Assistant Director of Communications for the Minnesota Department of Education, believe they will.

"I think you'll definitely see the administration prioritizing opportunities like this," Bisek said. "We know that there's a demand, we're seeing an increased amount of people (testing). So that's really encouraging and tells us that this is important to Minnesota."

In Minnesota alone, Adult Basic Education programs help about 55,000 people a year, Hasskamp said. The programs offer more than just GED testing; in Detroit Lakes, Fish said that "GED is actually less than half of our programming here." They work with students that are speaking English as a second language, are working to take their U.S. citizens test, are developing reading and math skills for college or work, are working to pass their drivers test and much more.

"In our adult education field, you'll see some really passionate people and really excited about serving the people that we work with," Hasskamp said.

These passionate people often come in the form of volunteers, which Fish is always looking for. Some students can't make it to their location during their hours of operation, so Fish needs volunteers that can work with students at different hours, among other things. Students come from a variety of different situations, and Fish needs volunteers that can work with any of them.

How to take the GED for free

  • Step 1: Create an account at GED.com
  • Step 2: In the promo code field, enter MNGED30

Test-takers must have a Minnesota address or be testing at a Minnesota site or border community. The code works for a students' first test in each of the four categories. After that, a retest is $10 per category.

"I thought (the GED) was going to be a process to get it set up, but it was done in seconds. I sat down and typed in the code and all cost was removed. I took the test and passed," Frazee resident Katelin Hanebuth said. She took the tests earlier this month. "Highly recommend it to anyone who's low-income or even just wants to save a little."

More information on DL ABE