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This blog post was written in collaboration with Caryn York, Executive Director of Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF).
This month, Maryland expanded access to one of the state’s largest need-based tuition grants for low income residents who have earned their GED. Senate bill 842 and House bill 781 passed unanimously in both the Maryland Senate and House. The bill, sponsored by Maryland State Senator Joan Carter Conway (Baltimore City- D, District 43), and co-sponsored by Maryland Delegate Nick J. Mosby (Baltimore City- D, District 40), and Delegate Jheanelle K. Wilkins (Montgomery County- D, District 20) will allow individuals who have secured their High School Diploma (HSD) via the GED test with College-Ready score levels to become eligible for the Howard P. Rawlings Guaranteed Access Grant, a need-based grant that provides up to 100% of tuition and fees for postsecondary education. On February 28th, National Skills Coalition joined Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF) and other partners to expand GED testers’ access to postsecondary education in Maryland. We testified at the Maryland Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs hearing in support of the Higher Education – Educational Excellence Award Eligibility – High School Diploma by Examination bill (SB 842).
Many GED testers want to continue their education to gain skills that lead to higher-wage jobs. Yet the cost of tuition remains a barrier for low-wage workers across Maryland, including those who pursue their high school diploma through the GED. SB 842/HB 781 will help address this challenge by giving those with their GED credential access to one of the state’s largest need-based tuition grants for low-income students. JOTF has been front and center on SB 842/ HB 781 through its work advocating for better skills, jobs, and incomes for Maryland residents.
Equal access to need-based funding would also assist the state of Maryland in closing its skill gap and reaching its postsecondary attainment goal. National Skills Coalition has found that middle skill jobs account for 48 percent of Maryland’s labor market but only 38 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle skill level. Maryland has recognized this gap and has established an ambitious goal for postsecondary attainment, aiming to increase the percentage of state residents with a postsecondary degree to 55 percent by 2024. On average, 3,500 Marylanders each year receive their High School Diploma via GED testing. Even if only a portion of these GED earners went on to pursue postsecondary training, it would move the state closer to closing the skill gap and achieving the statewide attainment goal.
National Skills Coalition believes that preparing people who earn their high school equivalency credential for college and careers is important for states’ overall economic health and essential to closing states’ middle skill gaps. NSC has long advocated for investments in state programs and policies that support high-quality adult education that enables people with foundational skill gaps to gain access to family-wage jobs. We urge states to take a look at their current policies and make sure that financial aid is available and accessible to high school equivalency credential earners and non-traditional students.