First at Five, February 23, 2009
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Lay-offs have made getting a job even tougher these days, sending more and more people are back to school to get their GEDs.
Charles McJunkin, Jr. does not mind studying now, but when he was 16 he quit studying when he quit high school. It's a decision he now regrets.
"I didn't for the first two or three years, but the older I got the more I regretted it," said McJunkin.
That's especially true now at the age of 34. Last October, he was laid off from his maintenance job. It was the final straw sending him back to school to get his GED.
Enrollment for GED classes is up about 4% across the state. Augusta Tech already has reached 80% of last year's enrollment and the fiscal year still has four months to go. Some are finding today's economy to be a good reason to stop putting it off.
"It seemed like every time I got ready to go back to school, I had a pretty good job making decent money, so I just kept putting it on the back burner," said McJunkin.
These days it's harder to make that money. With Georgia's unemployment rate the highest it's been in decades those without diplomas are competing more with those who do have them.
"Years ago when the economy wasn't so bad, maybe [companies] took those students who didn't have a GED but now it's a must," said Howie Gunby, the executive director of adult education at Augusta Tech. "If you want to work, if you want to go to school, you must have a GED."
While McJunkin's diploma is 18 years in the making, he just hopes it doesn't take that long for the job market to get better.
Augusta Tech offers free GED classes for anyone interested. The cost for taking the test is $95.