A controversial legislation regarding unemployment requirements is set to be decided by the end of this month. The House version of an unemployment bill would deny benefits to individuals without high school diplomas or GED-equivalents who are not currently enrolled in a high school equivalency program. The law will apply to everyone: young people who recently dropped out of high school, as well as older adults with skills that might have earned them jobs in a better economy.
Advocates of the bill say that it will give unemployed individuals more skills required for employment. They already have plenty of free time, proponents say, so they might as well put it to good use completing a GED. They say that a GED will enhance these individuals’ lives, as well as their employment prospects.
Certainly, a high school degree or its equivalence are valuable tools for the betterment of job prospects and quality of life. It’s difficult to encourage people to earn their high school diplomas without incentives like this one to spur them along. If incentives like increased career possibilities aren’t working, perhaps the way to encourage high school completion is a punishment like taking away unemployment benefits.
Those without high school diplomas were the hardest hit during the recession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people 25 years and older without a high school degree or equivalent were more than three times more likely to be unemployed as people with one.
This data encourages the point-of-view that employers are looking for employees with high school diplomas, but also that this bill will probably apply to the greatest number of people who are out of work. When will they have time to search for jobs, and if they find work before completing their GED’s, will they have sufficient time or government incentive to continue? If not, perhaps the government’s efforts to encourage high school completion in the United States will be futile if the economy improves.
Still, in order for the plan to even potentially be feasible, GED class accomodations need to increase. As The Daily Beast’s Gary Rivlin points out, proponents of this bill haven’t thoroughly done their homework. There wouldn’t be enough slots to accommodate all of the unemployed individuals working towards their GED’s. According to the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education, nearly every state has a waiting list for GED courses, and that waiting times to enroll in a course nearly doubled from 2008 to 2010.