If you are among the 10 percent of Minnesotans who did not finish high school, there has never been a better time to complete your GED:

Workers with less than a high school education earn about $10,000 a year less, on average, than workers with a high school diploma or GED, according to Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy.

The GED is accepted by 96 percent of Minnesota employers and 98 percent of colleges and universities.

Minnesota's Adult Basic Education (ABE) program provides free assessment, classes and tutoring to prepare for the GED at more than 500 sites statewide.

The GED (General Education Development) tests are used to certify high-school level knowledge of academic subjects and skills. The GED consists of five content area tests: reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. Tests are given in English and Spanish. Completing the entire set of tests takes just over seven hours. However, it is not necessary to take all of the tests at once.

6,000 GEDs In 2006

Cathy Grady, adult program director for the Minnesota Literacy Council (MLC) says there are many reasons why people don't finish high school. One of the most common reasons is the need to go to work to help provide income for the family.

When students come to an ABE center, they are given a placement test to see what skills and knowledge they will need to pass the GED. In some cases, Grady says, people can be ready in a few months. In other cases - adults who have never learned to read, for example - preparation can take years. More than 6,000 Minnesotans earned GEDs in 2008, taking a major step toward better jobs and higher incomes.

Learn More

To find a convenient ABE center, call the Minnesota Adult Literacy Hotline at 1-800-222-1990. You can also find site locations and class times on the MLC website: www.themlc.org/hotline.html. The Minnesota Department of Education recently announced a new online instructional program, the GED-i. Registered students with computer access can work anywhere and anytime, without worrying about transportation, child care and work schedules.

Laura French is principal of Words Into Action, Inc., and is a freelance writer from Roseville.