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Employers in Illinois Suffering From Undereducated Adults

Posted on April 30, 2009

Several people throughout the country have less than a high school education, making it even harder for them to get jobs. Many employers in Illinois also are suffering because of this.

The number of adults in Illinois with less than a ninth-grade education is continuing to grow and in turn costing the state billions of dollars, according to the Illinois Community College Board.

“The number of adults with less than a ninth-grade education has increased by 7 percent since 2004,” Guy Alongi, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, said in a press release, citing figures from the 2008 U.S. Census. “This is an incredible jump, and a tremendous expense to the Illinois taxpayers.”

One possible solution is through the general education development program offered through Illinois community colleges. The program provides a way for adults to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma.

“The Illinois Community College Board is making a concerted effort to promote the GED program and reach out to individuals who do not have a high school diploma,” Alongi continued.

Overall, more than 1.8 million of the 10 million adults in Illinois have less than 12 grades of formal education, including the close to 731,000 people with less than a ninth-grade education. A recent study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Boston’s Northeastern University found that each high school dropout is costing Illinois $221,000 throughout the course of their lifetime.

“This is a cost that is increasing, not declining,” Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson, vice-president for adult education and instructional support at the ICCB, said in the press release. “Illinois taxpayers should find this alarming.”

In 2008, about 15,734 people in Illinois earned a GED, giving them the opportunity to further employment, training and post-secondary education. However, that is only a small chunk of those who could benefit from a GED.

For instance, the Shawnee Community College District has 15,751 adults 16-years and older who are not enrolled in high school and listed as earning less than those with a high school diploma. In an effort to help, the college is expanding its GED program from two to four nights per week and making the alternative high school program and option for at-risk students.

“I agree with the ICCB, it is evident that we must do more to reach out to those who do not have a high school diploma, and encourage those who are in school to finish,” James Darden, the college’s dean of adult education, said in the release.

Many undereducated adults in Illinois could benefit from the GED as they face other issues, such as the face that about 2.34 million residents speak a language other than English as the primary language in their home. Also, almost 644,000 immigrants live in Illinois and many need English literacy and a civic education to participate in education and the workforce in order to ultimately obtain citizenship.

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