Mario’s aspiration was to attend college to become a welder; Josh applied for a security guard position at a casino and Maggie wanted to join the Navy.
All three found that they wouldn’t even be considered for these programs without their high school diploma or a High School Equivalency (HSE) credential.
“Life happens and people may find they could really benefit from getting a HSE,” said Program Manager Gabriel Baca of UNM-Los Alamos Adult Basic Education (ABE), Community Education and Customized Training. “UNM-LA is here locally providing that opportunity with test preparation classes, tutors, and materials, all free of charge.”
UNM-LA offers two, seven-week test preparation courses in fall and two in spring, and recently added a special four-week course starting July 6 called HSE Jump-Start. Classes are taught in-person by Jane Clements, PhD, who’s been instructing students in HSE test preparation for the past five years.
The July session, which stays the same for the fall, is conveniently offered 5-7 p.m., Monday through Thursday on the UNM-LA campus where a computer lab is available for online practice tests during and outside of class time.
“During the years that I’ve been a part of the HSE program, I’ve seen students of all ages and many different cultures participate,” Clements said. She also teaches English as a Second Language with UNM-LA. “Although everyone comes into the program with a different story and background, all share a common desire to achieve their goal of obtaining a High School Equivalency credential and going on to another challenge in life, like better jobs, and pursuing certifications in technical programs or college degree programs.”
Until recently, the GED was the only test providing students with an HSE credential. As of 2015, students have the option of taking the General Education Development Test (GED) or the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). Both tests are aligned with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and are recognized nationally. Both tests include sections on reading, writing, science, social studies, and mathematics, and can be taken in English, Spanish, or a combination of both.
Costs are $80 for the GED and $50 for the HiSET. The GED is available on computer and the HiSET is available on computer or by paper and pencil. A chart comparing GED with HiSET testing is available at the New Mexico Public Education Department (). The UNM-LA high school equivalency test preparation course prepares students to take either exam.
“With the HiSET testing option now also available to students, I think even more students will be able to pursue a High School Equivalency credential,” Clements added.
The tests are available to anyone who has not graduated from an accredited high school, who is not currently enrolled in high school, and who is at least 16 years old. Those under the age of 18 must submit a completed Underage Permission Form to the testing center before they will be able to register for the exam. The form must be signed by a parent or guardian and by the local superintendent or home school operator.
New to the UNM-LA campus this fall is a computer lab where HSE students will have access to online resources such as HSE practice tests. The preparation course will combine classroom time with computer lab time, contributing to the total hours of the program. The student computer workstations will be available to students outside of class time as well.
Regardless of which test students choose, an HSE credential provides a myriad of benefits. It is accepted by most colleges, universities, and the U.S. military and it enhances employment opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment rates rise in accordance with higher levels of education. The same source notes that weekly earnings are nearly $200 more per week for those with a high school diploma or credential than those without.
“In the time I’ve been in the program, people’s goals have varied from becoming better in math so that they can help their children with their homework or wanting to obtain their HSE before their child graduates from college, to pursuing their life-long dream of starting nursing school or going on to become a jet mechanic,” course instructor Clements said. “I really enjoy hearing from former students who’ve been successful in their career goals, knowing that the ABE program at UNM-LA has been instrumental in helping them achieve those goals.”
In New Mexico, students who pass either HSE test are eligible for UNM’s Bridge to Success Scholarship and New Mexico Lottery Scholarship. College applicants with an HSE also may apply for financial aid. Baca noted that at least 25 percent of students who pass the HSA through UNM-LA pursue higher education at UNM or other advanced learning institutions.
Funded by federal and state dollars through the State of New Mexico Higher Education Department, the free HSE test prep course from UNM-LA is also offered in Bernalillo, Jemez Pueblo, San Ildefonso Pueblo, at the Delancey Street Foundation in Alcalde, and at the Los Alamos County Detention Center. Additionally, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos supports these students’ endeavors with a scholarship to cover the cost of the test, and Los Alamos High Altitude Athletics Club has provided funds to defray practice test fees.
“Earning your HSE is not easy,”Baca said. “Our classes require hard work, but this credential opens doors for our students and for their families.”
For more information about these classes, contact UNM-LA Adult Learning Center at 505.663.3400, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit online at http://losalamos.unm.edu/adult-learning-center/index.html.