The more than 80,000 adults in the St. Louis region who didn’t earn a high school diploma will soon have two different ways to finish their degrees.
Enrollment will begin in October for the online program jointly run by the St. Louis Public Library and the St. Louis County Library. And a new Missouri law is paving the way for an adult high school to open in St. Louis sometime in the next two years.
The libraries’ online program, open to people 25 and older, is a way to offer another option besides the GED for the thousands who never completed high school, St. Louis County Library director Kristen Sorth said.
“There are all kinds of statistics out there about what a lack of a high school diploma will do for an individual or a family or a community, in terms of economics and mental health, and those kinds of things,” Sorth said. “This is just one more way for them to pursue getting an education.”
Both the online program and the state’s upcoming adult high school will offer more support and training than a traditional high school equivalency test. The library program is offered by a company called Gale, and the degrees will be accredited in all 50 states.
St. Louis Public Library director Waller McGuire said it is possible the libraries will find their program isn’t needed once the state high school opens.
“When it comes to offering education to our citizens, the more variety and the options the better,” McGuire said. “It might be that as the state continues to develop that program that we’ll find in a couple of years that this isn’t something we want to go on supporting. But for now, it’s unique.”
Republican Rep. Travis Fitzwater, of Holts Summit, sponsored the state law, which calls for a nonprofit to open four high schools throughout the state. Illinois legislators passed a similar bill this year, but Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has not signed it.
Fitzwater said adult high schools are a way to help people find a better-paying job.
“Studies show that if you have just a GED it doesn’t do that much for you in your earning power, but if you have a high school diploma it’s looked upon more favorably by employers,” Fitzwater said.
Adults over the age of 21 will be able to enroll in the state program.
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