Minnesota's Department of Education has secured federal money to cover the cost of the test high school dropouts can take to earn a diploma equivalent.
The $125,000 grant means the test will be free through June for anyone who wants to take the General Educational Development test, known as the GED.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith was among top state officials promoting the opportunity Thursday along with a Dayton administration proposal to provide additional funding to offset costs for next year, too. Gov. Mark Dayton's budget calls for $120,000 in new spending to match available federal dollars.
"Now is your time," Smith said. "Between now and we anticipate the end of June you can take the GED for free and get going on all of the rest of your life."
The test normally costs $120. The state estimates that 2,000 people would benefit from the testing offer this year alone. And officials estimate that a diploma or GED raises a person's earning power by almost 38 percent.
"We know that this will easily pay for itself as far as Minnesotans earning that credential and being prepared to enter that higher-level job or advance on to higher education," said Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben.
Eddie Lema said he had been working in a Chinese restaurant earning $9.25 per hour working 12 hour shifts. The Minneapolis man took the test months after dropping out during his senior year and said he's now applying for post-secondary programs for nursing and computer engineering.
"It really opened a lot of doors for me and I'm really thankful for it," Lema said.
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said people interested in taking the test can get more details through her department's Adult Basic Education website.