The GI Bill turned 70 this week. Among the benefits provided, the bill enabled returning WWII veterans to go to college.
Those without high school diplomas turned to the General Educational Development Testing Service, still known as the GED.
When he signed the GI Bill on June 22, 1944, FDR created a huge new market for the private company behind the GED test, which had been created a few years earlier.
Of course, in those days, the test was mainly taken by returning troops who didn’t have a high school diploma. More recently, the demographic interested in taking the test has changed a great deal.
“So now we’ve got the GED heavily weighted toward the prison population,” says Lois Quinn, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee's Employment and Training Institute. “So the prisons become the greatest customer for the test.”
Quinn also says more teenagers are taking the test after dropping out of high school.
Recently, the GED's value has been put into question.
“To the extent that there are more people with a high school diploma, then that would put people with a GED at a disadvantage,” says Chris Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week.
In fact, the military now prefers recruits with a high school diploma over those with a GED.