LOVES PARK (WIFR) -- The days of filling in the bubbles on scantron sheets are numbered for people trying to take the General Educational Development Test, or GED. Starting in January 2014, all GED tests must be taken on the computer. Which means local testing sites have a lot of work to do.
"It's a big deal, it's a very big deal," says Chief Examiner Kim Rogers. Leaders of the Regional Office of Education for Winnebago and Boone Counties think transitioning to a digital test will cost them as much as 40-thousand dollars. That's because they'll need to buy computers and cameras for ID purposes. They're still trying to decide on where they can dedicate space to the exam. And since it's going digital, all tests must be completed by the end of the year, otherwise any previous scores will be lost. The new test will be offered in two versions. One that's simply good for high school equivalency, another that could double as an ACT score, which is required to get into most colleges.
Going digital could be problematic for the older student. There are a good number of people older than the typical student going and getting their GEDs. Meet one retired man who did it for self-satisfaction and also because he needed it to get a part-time job.
"When I saw the size of the book, it was a little intimidating." Who wouldn't be intimidated by a one-thousand page text-book? Especially those like Mike Meagher who haven't been to school in nearly 50 years. He dropped out at 18.
"Just being naive and stupid. I wish I wouldn't have done it, knowing what I know now, I would have gone to college and taken a completely different path as far as my employment," says Meagher.
Mike spent most of his career as a car hauler. He retired last March, but knew he'd get antsy and would want a part-time job.
"I thought my work record and everything would speak for itself and it didn't, it didn't matter. That was the hard fast requirement that they needed."
He needed a GED. So Mike studied and studied and passed the high school equivalency test in October 2011.
"I recalled so much that I kind of mothballed."
It's not uncommon to find a student like Mike with silver hair. In the last five years, 374 people over the age of 50 got their GEDs in Winnebago and Boone Counties. Some are well into their 70's and 80's.
"One thing we've noticed, they're doing it for themselves or their grandchildren to prove they could do it," says Chief Examiner Kim Rogers.
Self-satisfaction, especially for students who've produced successful children like Belvidere Schools Superintendent Michael Houselog's mom Lois. She got her GED in December at the age of 85. Others take the exam to keep their job.
"I have heard people come in and say I need to have my GED in 90 days because there's new management," says Rogers.
Even Mike's employer, Cassens, now requires a GED. He was grandfathered in when the guidelines changed ten years ago.
Mike now works part-time for IDOT. And is thinking of taking computer classes.