Less than half of individuals who pass the General Education Development test, or GED, a high school diploma equivalency program, go on to attend college or university.
Jessica Kleinhardt, 39, a Hall County resident and mother, figured she’d be on the lesser side of that divide.
In fact, she considered getting a GED pointless – at one point in time.
“To me, it was like, ‘Why waste time’”? she said.
According to the GED Testing Service, which harvested data from the National Student Clearinghouse, just 45 percent of GED earners enrolled in a college certificate or degree program within three years.
And only one-third enrolled in post-secondary education.
When Kleinhardt began to study in a GED test preparation course, her instructor, Angela Middleton, knew she’d found a perfect pupil.
Middleton is a former Hall County educator and coach who teaches GED prep classes at the Goodwill Career Center in Oakwood.
She said Kleinhardt’s attitude quickly changed.
“Once I got into the classes, Angela pushed me,” she said. “I found this new drive.”
There are many GED prep programs across Hall County.
The Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy alone reports that it has helped 4,951 people attain their GEDs between 1995 and 2016.
GED recipients have better prospects of higher-paying work and, of course, the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education.
However, the GED test was redesigned in 2014, and passing rates fell, perhaps, correspondingly.
And the number of people taking the exam dropped by more than 50 percent.
The National Council of State Directors of Adult Education reports that the addition of two new high school equivalency exams contributed to the decrease in participation.
Earning her GED was a real struggle, Kleinhardt admits.
Drug addiction, jail, family treatment court, a child with cancer. Homeless at eight months pregnant. These have been moments in her and her partner’s lives.
“My whole life really just turned upside down,” Kleinhardt said.
But it’s been flipped back, mostly right side up - and not just with a GED in hand, but with Kleinhardt’s children at home and a new hope she has set to be the best example possible for them.
“If I can do that, I’m sure I can go through some college courses,” she said.
Now enrolled at Brenau University and ready for classes to begin in January, Kleinhardt intends to pursue a degree in psychology.
She wants to help others who have gone through the same trials and tribulations she has experienced.
“My dream job is to be a drug and alcohol counselor,” she said. “There are not near enough counselors.”
Kleinhardt already is helping through mentoring and sponsoring other women in Alcoholics Anonymous groups, she said.
Kleinhardt is also ready for the challenges college will bring, she said, because she wants to be there. She wants to be there for her two children still at home, and she wants to be there to chase the dreams that have been on hold for too many years.
“It makes me realize everyday what could have been,” she said.
Kleinhardt’s advice to others thinking about pursuing a GED or going back to college?
“It’s never too late,” she said.