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adult online high school diploma

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