The HiSET, which Missouri uses as its high school equivalency exam, is now available to first-time test-takers for free.

Developed by the New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service, the HiSET replaced the GED in Missouri in January 2014. The cost to take the test is $98.75. That includes exams in math, science, social studies, reading and writing at a cost of $17.75 per subtest, as well as a $10 state registration fee.

"I think people will feel more comfortable about trying to pass the test" with the fees waived, said Linda Dishman, director of Joplin Adult Education and Literacy. "I feel like we had a lot of students who were ready to go, but they didn't want to take the chance on spending the money (if they didn't end up passing)."

The change to offer the test for free was part of a bill passed during the 2018 legislative session and championed by state Rep. Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto. Gannon has said the cost of the exam can be a barrier to success for people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

“When the obstacle of cost is removed, students will have the chance to pass the high school equivalency exam and get a viable job," she told the Jefferson City News-Tribune last year.

The 2019 legislative session funded that portion of the bill, with the state picking up the tab for first-time HiSET test-takers as of July 1, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said. Funding is limited, so priority will be given on a first-come, first-served basis to "public" test-takers, or those who are taking the test outside of the Department of Corrections, the Department of Youth Services and the state's K-12 MO Option Program.

Because test-takers pay upfront when they schedule their test, anyone who scheduled and paid for a test prior to June 30 is not eligible for state-paid testing, even if they actually took the exam after July 1, according to the state Education Department. Anyone who scheduled a test and paid out-of-pocket for it on or after July 1 may be eligible for a refund and can find out by contacting HiSET's customer service at 855-694-4738.

State officials encourage individuals to attend their local, free Adult Education classes first to ensure that they are ready to pass the HiSET.

The Joplin center, 123 S. Main St., is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fridays. Instructors offer one-to-one and group classes to prepare students for all types of exams, including the HiSET.

More than 260 students took advantage of the Joplin center's free classes last year, and 36 students passed the HiSET, Dishman said.

To contact Joplin Adult Education and Literacy, call 417-625-5263. Orientation sessions are offered every Tuesday, alternating between mornings and evenings. Additional Adult Education and Literacy program locations can be found at ael.mo.gov.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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