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Some in Ohio worry about rising cost of GED exam

COLUMBUS (AP) — The cost for people without high school diplomas to take a test for an equivalency certificate is expected to triple within the next year, and that has some Ohioans worried about its affordability, especially for potential test-takers working lower-paying jobs.

The fee will be about $120 when a computer version replaces the paper version of the General Educational Development, or GED, test by 2014, The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/Q7KCzY ) reported.

About 25,000 people in Ohio are expected to take the test during the next year.

Among them is Angela Surles, a 22-year-old single mother who hopes passing the test leads to higher-paying work. Surles, who quit working at Sears to participate in a six-week test preparation course and gets by on food stamps and family help, says she can't afford the higher price and knows others in similar situations.

"With the economy right now, everybody is struggling," Surles, of Columbus, said.

State education officials said they can't influence the test cost because the American Council on Education, the nonprofit that owns the GED, is partnering with a for-profit company called Pearson Vue Testing, and they'll control the price.

"They're a private corporation," said Sharon Bowman, state GED administrator for the Department of Education. "They set the cost."

The American Council on Education was closed Saturday, and officials there could not be reached immediately for comment.

States could instead choose to develop their own equivalency tests, but that would take funding and time and raise the possibility that some colleges wouldn't recognize it.

"Right now, the GED brand is accepted at most colleges. It would take time for colleges to accept another test option," Department of Education spokesman John Charlton told the newspaper in an email.

The change to the computer version also will cut the number of licensed test administration sites from about 100 to 40.

The Department of Education approved the first five computer test centers in the state last month and will roll out the first Franklin County center, at Columbus State, next week, Bowman said. The goal is to have 40 sites in the state by December 2014, but several will be at prisons, Bowman said.

The state's higher education chief, Chancellor Jim Petro, is concerned that the changes will limit how many students pursue advanced education, spokeswoman Kim Norris said.

"His whole goal is helping students to complete a post-secondary education," she said, "so it concerns him."

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