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Why A High School Diploma is Better Than a GED?

There’s a general misconception that passing the General Education Development (GED) exam is the same or equivalent to earning a high school diploma. There is substantial evidence that this is the furthest thing from the truth. Statistics show that three-quarters of GED holders don’t make it through a career training program such as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Hair Stylists, or Commercial Truck Driving. 

In many cases the GED isn’t enough. The military and most employers prefer applicants with an actual high school diploma. In addition, statistics show the average GED-holder earns around $18,776 a year, and 95 percent of them will drop out of a four-year college program. Stephen Cameron and James Heckman, two economists, have found that earning a GED is the nearly the equivalent of dropping out of high school altogether.

Those individuals who have completed their high school diploma will most likely be chosen for a job over those with a GED. There are a lot of negative perceptions that come with earning the GED instead of completing a high school diploma. Even the U.S. military, who developed the GED program, typically will accept those with a high a school diploma over those who passed the GED.

Studies show that an equivalency exam cannot replace schooling. In most cases the GED can provide the prerequisite for some colleges and training programs, however, it rarely provides the learning foundation or discipline needed to succeed in these programs. 

There are many students that struggle with a traditional high school setting. It is common for counselors and others to push these students to get their GED.  If we know that the GED is nearly the equivalency of dropping out of high school altogether, shouldn’t alternative options to earning a high school diploma be considered? What about those students or adults who have already dropped out? Are they predisposed to failure?

Smart Schools was created to provide the alternative option to passing the GED. This is particularly true for those that are just a few credits away from completing their high school requirements. Students can earn their high school diploma online from a fully accredited institution. This is great option for adults who dropped out of high school years ago or students who are leaving the traditional high school settings for multiple reasons. 

Completing a high school diploma is a major life step for everyone. Prove it to yourself that you can complete what you have started. Show employers you have self-discipline. Students that complete the Smart Schools program have gained a sense of achievement that can’t be provided by taking an equivalency exam, building  the foundation for success in their future college degree or vocational training program. 

Taking Homeless Education Beyond the GED

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The city of Phoenix and the surrounding metropolitan area generally enjoy moderate weather 9 months of the year. Although this moderate weather brings many permanent and temporary residents, it is also a breeding ground for the homeless population. A 2019 annual report on Homelessness in Arizona estimated the number of unsheltered persons counted statewide on one night was 6,614. Although the report identifies this to be a slight increase over the 2018 number of 6,298, this increase calculates to nearly a 3.4% increase over one year.

Although it would be very difficult to know the exact number of homeless in Phoenix at any given time, officials counted 25,832 homeless people in Maricopa County throughout 2019. On just one night in the same year, there were reported to be 4342 homeless individuals in shelters and 1289 on the streets. 

The Phoenix Rescue Mission reports that 37% of Maricopa County’s homeless are families usually consist of a single mother with children. Working diligently to soften the impact on homeless families and individuals, the Phoenix Rescue Mission provides support and rehabilitative services with a primary mission to change the homeless individual and family’s living situation. In other words, the Mission is not just providing food and shelter, but hope. 

In 2015 the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Vocational Development Manager, Rhonda Webb and Lorie Webster, a senior mentor with Smart Schools developed a partnership to expand education offerings at Phoenix Rescue Mission. This partnership opened additional opportunities and provided additional support to PRM residents participating in the Vocational Development Program. The primary goal of this opportunity was to offer a high school diploma option to Phoenix Rescue mission residents. 

Through Smart Schools online high school diploma program, I was able to see a possibility of a diploma. English, done! Science, done! And OMG, Math. It took me the better part of 6 months to complete all the courses I needed to get my diploma and somehow, I even took an extra semester of Calculus. That was God having a sense of humor because Calculus is not required to graduate. 

Michelle Snyder, May 2018 Graduate

During the span of time between the inception of the partnership and October 2018, there have been 41 successful high school graduates from PRM. To better understand the population served, the following statistics are offered:

  • Average months to complete the diploma requirements – 5

  • Average credits needed at program entry – 11

  • Average credits earned while in the program – 8 

  • Average grade earned – 75%

  • Average Age – 31

In addition to the data offered above, the oldest graduate was 52 and the youngest was 19. There were 12 females and 29 males that took courses. Just over 45% of the graduates were a minority; they were not white. 

Now that I have accomplished my goal of getting a high school diploma with Smart Schools it is time for me to go out there and become the person I have always wanted to become. I have committed myself to another 6 months at Phoenix Rescue Mission, so I can give encouragement to those who are working on their GED or high school diplomas. So, my goal for the next 6 months is to help another individual accomplish their goals. 

Gilbert Hernandez, May 2018 Graduate

The success of this program is driven primarily by the vision of Rhonda Webb and the passionate support of Lorie Webster, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Smart Schools USA, and Grad Solutions, LLC. In addition to Lorie Webster, the Smart Schools leadership and mentor team, Carl Sharak and Rich Becker, played an important part in securing success for these graduates. Their vision, team effort, and dedication to this partnership has provided extensive educational opportunity to those that may have never had access to it. 

After coming to Phoenix Rescue Missing I fond out I could get my high school diploma. I said to myself, “Here’s my chance to get it.” I got enrolled. I dedicated every bit of my free time to working on getting my diploma. I have now earned my diploma, something I thought would never happen. Now I am excited to see all the great opportunities which having high school diploma open for me. 

Jason Brown, January 2017 Graduate

In addition to educational benefit of this partnership, it is estimated that each Arizona dropout carries an economic and social cost of $551,010 over his or her lifetime. Based on that figure, the PRM and Grad Solutions partnership has generated over $22M in social and economic benefits to our society (Arizona Mayors Roundtable-WestEd 2014). The actual total benefit will vary based on the age of the graduate, but based on the average age of the graduates, the partnership has still produced an extensive amount of monetary benefit to society. 

David Reed, Ph.D.

Director of Research & Development

College & Career Readiness

The Difference Between a High School Diploma and GED?

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Since the U.S. military developed the GED exam after WWII, there has been two options for people looking to finish high school or prove the equivalency of knowledge. That poses a major question, what is the difference between the two? Many people might think there is no difference and the two terms are synonymous. At first glance they may seem similar but passing the GED and earning a high school diploma are not really perceived to be the same. 

General Education Development (GED)  

The GED, General Educational Development, also known as General Education Diploma, was developed as to be a quick alternative for those without a high school diploma. Individuals will study and take a series of 4 tests to certify their aptitude, knowledge and skills. These 4 test include: 


Reasoning Through Language Arts

Mathematical Reasoning


Social Studies

Time Allowed

150 minutes (including a break)

115 minutes

90 minutes

70 minutes

When passed, individuals will receive a certification verifying that the test taker (American or Canadian) has met high-school academic levels in the four subject areas.

High School Diploma 

To earn a high school diploma, a student typically must pass grade-level English, mathematics, social studies, science and other classes such as foreign language, music, etc. The number of credits students must successfully complete varies by state and district. In many states they require students to pass an end of course test or high school exit exam to earn their diploma. Once completed successfully, students will receive a diploma symbolizing they have earned the proper amount of credits and have passed the required state exams. 


Most people understand what a high school diploma is. Once the student has completed four years of study, they will receive a diploma declaring that they have successfully passed all the required classes and exams. 

A GED is much different. Depending on who you talk to, the GED means different things. Some say it means General Education Diploma or Graduate Equivalency Degree. Although the technical term and definition is General Education Development exam. 

As mentioned above, the GED is a series of tests used to show if you have attained a high school level of education or not. In order to take the GED, the individual must be at least 16 years old and cannot be enrolled in high school. That individual must take the actual GED exam at a physical, certified location. It cannot be taken online. 

The number of people earning their GED has declined significantly over the past couple of years. Studies show roughly 248,000 people took the exam last year. At least 86,000 successfully earned a GED according to preliminary data from GED testing services. That is far below previous year’s numbers: 800,000 test takers and nearly 560,000 GED recipients. 

This is where Smart Schools can help. Students can earn their high school diploma online from a fully accredited online high school program. Smart Schools is an excellent option for students who are leaving the traditional high school for whichever reason, as well as adults who want to complete their high school diploma. This is particularly true for students who are just a few credits from completing their diploma requirements. 

As discussed above, there are many advantages to earning your high school diploma. By completing the work to earn the diploma, students gain knowledge and a sense of achievement that cannot be provided by just taking an exam. 

The Average Salary by Education Level 2019-2020

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We have all experienced the challenges of trying to earn enough to meet financial goals and save for retirement. In this article we will dive into the average salary by education level to see the return on investment (ROI) of an education. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 88% of Americans had at least a high school diploma or GED in 2015. Thirty-three percent had a bachelor’s or more, and 12% had an advanced degree such as a master’s or professional degree, or a doctorate. To see what a difference education makes, check out the average salary by education level. 

Average Salary for Those Who Have Less Than High School Diploma

Studies show workers who have less than a high school diploma are the lowest paid workers. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly earnings for those with less than a high school diploma is around $520. This equates to an annual income of $27,040 not including withholdings. The unemployment rate for these same individuals is 6.5%, which is the highest unemployment rate for any educational category.

The Average Salary for Those Who have a High School Diploma

Those with a high school diploma have a higher earning potential. The average weekly earnings for these with a high school diploma is around $712. This is an annual income of $37,024. The unemployment rate for these individuals is 4.6%

The Average Salary for Those Who Have Some College but No Degree

Even having some college will increase your earning potential compared to just a high school diploma. The average weekly earnings for these individuals with some college but no degree is $774. This is an annual income of $40,248. The unemployment rate for these individuals is 4%. However, there is a major caveat. The majority of these individual who have some college but no degree has student loan debt that must be paid back. This is an additional expense that will offset much of their increase in earnings. 

The Average Salary for Those Who Have an Undergraduate Degree

We will break this education level into two parts; an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree. 

Earning your associate’s degree provides you with an advantage over those without a degree but not as much as earning a bachelor’s degree. The average weekly earnings for individuals with and associate’s degree is $836. This is an annual income of $43,472. The unemployment rate for these individuals is 3.4%.

Individuals who have earned a bachelors degree will be awarded an average weekly earnings of $1,173. This is an annual income of $60,996. The unemployment rate for these individuals is 2.5%

The Average Salary for Those Who Have a Master’s Degree

The average weekly earnings for those who have a master’s degree is $1,401. This is an annual income of $72,852. The unemployment rate for these individuals is 2.2%.

The Average Salary for Those Who Have a Doctorate or Professional Degree

Most people believe those with a doctorate would earn more than any other education group. This isn’t always the case. The average weekly salary for those who have a doctorate is $1,743. This is an annual income of $90,636. The unemployment rate for these individuals is 1.5%

However, for those who have earned a professional degree (professions such as a Juris Doctor (JD), Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Medicine, and others) earn an average of $1,836 per week. This is an annual income of $95,472. The unemployment rate for these individuals is 1.5%

Data was pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)