How is a GED a real advantage in reducing family homelessness in NYC?

Exam: GED Test - General Educational Development Test: Social Studies, Language Arts - Writing, Science, Language Arts - Reading, Mathematics

General Education Test (GED), administered by the GED Testing Service, is the most widely recognised high-school equivalent credential in the United States. The program offers a second chance to the school dropouts to get a high school degree and a platform to step up their education and career in future. The uniqueness of the program is its feature of connecting the high school education of the school dropouts directly to an opportunity for a higher postsecondary education as well as for a job opportunity making it one of a kind test in the United States.

The benefits and opportunities that GED has to offer were effectively channelled by the New York City Council to improve the standards of living of the people in the state. The New York City Council launched the Back-to-school campaign in 2011 to encourage more and more people in the state to participate in various free education classes for adults and earn a GED. The campaign was a significant step forward in increasing the access of New Yorkers to the more educational and job opportunities. The program also complements the Advantage Program initiated by the New York City's Department of Homeless Services that aims to provide a permanent shelter for the homeless in the state.

About The Advantage Program

The Advantage Program was launched by Department of Homeless Services in 2007. The program was a rental assistance program that provided subsidy in rent for smooth transition of homeless to self-sufficiency and financial independence. It offered support and assistance to eligible households in paying rent for one or two years and requires them to pay 30% of the gross monthly income in the first year which is further increased to a contribution of 40% in the second year. The program was further improved in 2010 by enhancing the link of the program with employment.  The qualification for this enhanced version of the program required the beneficiaries to be working for a minimum of 20hours in a week and also taking part in employment activities for extra 15 hours weekly. However, the households with disability were given an exception from the condition of 35 hour per week of working.The participants of the program are also offered aftercare services including good neighbour education, aid for facilitating transitional benefits, tenant conflict and payment resolution and assistance for finding or upgrading employment.

About Back-to-school campaign

With more than 1.6 million people in the state not having a high school diploma, Back-to-school campaign was launched by New York Council in the year 2010 to assist them in living a better life. The campaign driven towards promoting GED among New Yorkers as a step forward in living a better life and create opportunities for them to put an end to their struggle for employment and enhance their competence in the job market. The Council launched a website, GED Compass, in association with various state agencies including Department of Education, New York Community Trust and Literacy Assistance Centre to help the people in finding classes for preparation for higher education and GED. In partnership three of the Public Library Systems in New York City, the Council is also helping the people visiting the workforce development centres of the Librariesto connect with the required education services. The Council is determined to spread its reach to people of all backgrounds without a high school diploma including people in correction facilities.

Benefits of Collaboration ofThe Advantage and Back-to-schoolProgram

The collaboration of the two programs can be a great opportunity for families being supported under the Advantage Program in creating long term stability in housing and income. The effectiveness of the collaboration is assured from the fact that over 50% of the homeless do not have a high school diploma or GED. An access to GED through the Back-to-school campaign can be of great significance for getting a better employment opportunity and increase on their income. The research data shows that New Yorkers with a GED can gain a rise in average income by $3500 every year and a 65% more income compared to the high school dropouts over the lifetime.In addition, according to the Community Service Society of New York, the provision of the GED course for adults that costs around $1000 per person and the contribution of the adults having GED credential or high school diploma to the net fiscal benefit is approximately $193,000. Therefore, the advantages of the increasing access to education among the homeless would be witnessed in the overall growth of the city as well.

Significance of GED for Homeless

A GED credential is known to be the most widely accepted brand for high equivalency test across all the states in the United States. GED will have various opportunities and growth to offer the homeless in improving their standard of living. Being a high school dropout, which most of the homeless are in the New York City, limits the scope of higher education, better job opportunities as well as higher income. Studies have shown that the difference between the earning capacity of a GED credential holder and the high school has widened from 1997 to 2008. The average wage per hour of GED holder was approximately $14 compared to $12 earned by a high school dropout.

At the personal level, earning a GED has proved to be a confidence booster and a motivational factor for the homeless who are usually low on self-esteem due to their social and economic status. It has been observed that most of the people with GED to take up skilled and better paying jobs because of increased confidence about their skill. Moreover, with improving standard of living through GED, it also acts as motivational factor for many to pursue higher education for further growth prospects.

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