Program Spotlight: GED

In 1942, the U.S. Armed Forces Institute asked the American Council on Education to develop a battery of tests to measure high school-level academic skills. These tests gave military personnel and veterans who had enrolled in the military before completing high school a way to demonstrate their knowledge.  General Educational Development (GED), referring to a system of standardized examinations which entitle those who pass them to receive a credential considered as equivalent to completion of a high school diploma.

Debbie Skaggs heads the GED and Basic Skills program at OCCC. I had an opportunity to meet with her.

Life is a challenge and for some it is almost insurmountable. However, lacking a high school diploma is one of those hurtles that can absolutely be jumped and successfully, with help from OCCC.

I moved here one and a half years ago. Originally from Colorado, after high school, I attended Bethany University in Santa Cruz, CA. That is where I met my husband. We are both pastors in Siletz. Prior to heading the GED program at OCCC, I taught basic skills in jails and prisons. It seemed that OCCC was just a good fit for my skills.

At OCCC, our philosophy is that we focus on each student and help them through the process of preparation for the four GED exams: one in math; one in Language arts, one in science; and, one in Social studies. Enrollment in the GED program is open. The process begins with an evaluation of each student’s abilities. GED studies are then tailored and flexible depending on the needs of the individual.

Nationally, the GED passage rate hovers around 60%. For OCCC students, that average is 89%. In the last academic year, 2020-21, 46 GED students completed the course work and tested. With half of the year remaining, that number promises to be higher this year.

I think the success rate of our students is because of our instructors. They are all top notch and really caring people. Six instructors teach GED: four in English; one at the jail and one in Spanish. One of or instructors began as a GED student herself. As Terri D. Neimann, PhD., explains, “I’ve found students can do the work-they just need the self-confidence to know they can. I see myself as the student’s cheer leader, cheering them on the side lines.”

For those who are thinking about studying for a GED, we hope finances are not a consideration stopping you. The OCCC Foundation works with donors who are interested in helping pay for tuition, books, testing and even bus passes to get to the campus. One such donor is Anne Stangeland who established a scholarship fund dedicated to GED students. Anne says, “The GED is a pathway to further education, especially for those who are at risk. I taught reading and writing GED classes from 1975 to the late 1990s and was able to witness, first-hand, the success stories.”

Every student who enrolls in the GED program is a success story. Some have to drop out for a short while, but when they return, we do everything we can to make certain they succeed.

I recall one mom last spring term who had quit school as a freshman. After many years and with a husband and three children, she decided to sit for the GED orientation. Based on our interview, I could tell she was very bright and asked her to take one of the ”ready tests.” She did remarkably well and only required a course in social studies and science for a few weeks. Within two months, she graduated and was ready to enter college.

Not everyone completes the program so quickly but whatever time you need to do it, the door is always open for you. In the midst of life, just stick to the program.

Thank you, Debbie, Terri, your fellow instructors, Anne and donors like you and most of all, thank you, students for trusting OCCC to help you through the process to earning your GED certificate. Each one of you is remarkable and an inspiration.

The GED program will be highlighted at Pearls of Wisdom on March 5, 2022.