High School Equivalency Diploma photo featured

Iowa achieves highest HSED passing rate, NICC program sees record number of graduates

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The 94 graduates from the NICC program represent nearly 10 percent (9.37) of the 1,003 total graduates statewide last year.

NORTHEAST IOWA— Among states and U.S. territories that use HiSET, a high school equivalency exam, Iowa ranks the highest for the percent of individuals who passed the test. Last year, 95.9 percent of Iowans seeking a high school equivalency diploma passed the exam compared to 80.5 percent nationally.

The HiSET has served as the state-approved test since 2014. The exam measures the knowledge and proficiencies equivalent to those of an Iowa high school graduate. A total of 1,003 Iowans passed the test last year, which is administered in 25 states, including Iowa, as well as four U.S. territories.

Meanwhile, the highest number of high school equivalency diploma students at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) also passed the HiSET for program year 2020-2021, with 94 graduates, more than any other program year since the test was introduced in 2014. During that time span, 401 students have graduated from the NICC program.

The success rate is especially remarkable because of COVID-19 restrictions last year that impacted travel, access to technology, study spaces and tutoring sessions for students. The 94 graduates from the NICC program represent nearly 10 percent (9.37) of the 1,003 total graduates statewide last year, noted Gisella Aitken-Shadle, NICC director of adult education and literacy.

“Due to COVID-19, students were not able to learn in person and we offered more flexible services. We also saw an increase in enrollment because students were not working at their jobs. Additionally, the College had developed its technology infrastructure before the pandemic, and this provided students with individual or small group instruction online through Zoom and over the phone even outside business hours,” she said.

A Dubuque Community Foundation Grant and the College Tech program provided additional assistance to students who needed access to computers, internet hot spots and technology.

“Partnership, cooperation and a willingness to learn from one another and help each other were the keys to our success in the past year,” Aiken-Shadle said.

Opportunities to earn a HSED play an important role in helping build Iowa’s talent pipeline for the careers of today and tomorrow, which is key to the Future Ready Iowa initiative. The initiative calls for 70 percent of Iowans having completed education or training beyond high school by 2025. The exam, which is offered both online and in written formats, has five subtests—reading, writing/essay, social studies, science and math.

For more information on the HSED program at NICC, visit www.nicc.edu/beagraduate.