Northwest offers several high school equivalency options for adult students

Former professional road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong once said, “If you ever get a second chance in life for something, you’ve got to go all the way.” In Northwest Mississippi Community College’s Adult Education program, second chances are a way of life.

“The way we design the program is in the interest of the students’ needs, and how I perceive our student body is that every one of our students has a different story. We are not here to judge. Every single one of our students has a different set of circumstances, and we are here to help them,” said Tim Chavez, director of Adult Education.

Northwest offers the program of adult education to provide the opportunity for persons age 17 and older within the college’s 11-county district to receive basic skills through the high school level. They also offer classes that can prepare students to work for a certificate of high school equivalency (HSE). Students entering the Adult Education program at Northwest take the Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE) so that Northwest can assess the areas they need help in.

Currently, students in the Adult Education program at Northwest have four options available to them to reach HSE. All four options offer the same result, according to Chavez. Persons who complete them will receive a High School Equivalency Diploma that is recognized by the state of Mississippi and by employers throughout the state.

There are three equivalency tests available to choose from. The three tests cover the subject areas of Reading and Writing, Science, Social Studies and Mathematics. Each of these tests allow students up to two discounted retakes.

The most well-known is probably the General Education Development (GED), a joint venture of the American Council on Education and Pearson VUE. It is a computer-based test.  The cost of the full exam battery is $120, and Northwest serves as a certified GED testing site.

Another equivalency test that is available for students to take is the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET), which is a product of Educational Testing Service (ETS). This test is either computer or paper based. The cost of the HiSET is $85 for the full exam battery. Northwest is a certified testing site for the HiSET as well.

The third is the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) test, a product of the Data Recognition Corporation. This test is either computer or paper based. The price of the full exam battery is $89. Currently, Northwest is not a test site for the TASC test.

The fourth option is the Mississippi Competency Based High School Equivalency.  This option requires enrollment in Adult Education. Students will also need to apply for the Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (MI-BEST) program, which is open to Mississippi residents aged 18 and older who have not earned a high school diploma.

According to Elizabeth Kairit, Northwest’s MI-BEST coordinator, potential students are referred to her office after they take the TABE test and are assessed at a high enough level. “If they score high enough, we contact them and if they are interested in the program, they come in for an interview,” Kairit said. She explained that students are drug tested at the beginning and randomly throughout their classes. They also have a mandatory orientation session.

At Northwest, MI-BEST students can choose college classes in manufacturing or health care. According to Kairit, there are 12 seats for the manufacturing pathway, and 20 for health care. Upon completion of the MI-BEST program, in order to achieve the Mississippi Competency Based HSE, students will have achieved Silver level of the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) 15 hours of college credit, the Smart Start credential and an industry-recognized credential. They will be TABE-tested again at the completion of the program and will have to earn an Educational Functioning Level (EFL) 5/6 level on the test.

Both Kairit and Chavez said that while MI-BEST students are not required to take an HSE test with this option, they are encouraged to do so. “They are taking Adult Education classes along with their college-level courses, and they are fully prepared to pass any of those tests. It’s just another feather in their cap,” Chavez said.

The MI-BEST program is free to students. It is funded by the Department of Labor and the W.F. Kellogg’s Foundation. “We can help students with gas cards, childcare and even offer them a cafeteria meal plan. We have tutoring available to them. We want them to succeed,” Kairit said.

For more information on Adult Education at Northwest contact Betty Cossar, transition coordinator at 662-562-3698 or email bcossar@northwestms.edu. For more information on the MI-BEST program, contact Kairit at 662-560-1135 or email ekairit@northwestms.edu. Visit the college’s website at northwestms.edu.

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