Early Reports Suggest DACA Increasing Demand for Adult Education

Back in I August I wrote an article suggesting that the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative might increase demand for GED classes—and for adult education classes in general.

According to Miranda Leitsinger of NBC News, it has. Although it’s not clear yet what the impact of DACA has been on the demand for adult education in general, she reports that interest in the GED test is on the rise, at least in some states.

Some GED state testing centers are seeing a spike in requests to take the test or a course, as well as an uptick in calls with questions about the exam since the government began accepting applications for the deferred action program on Aug. 15, according to an informal survey of state GED test program administrators conducted by the GED Testing Service, the official creator of the exam.

In Iowa, centers have experienced a 20 percent rise in English as a Second Language attendance for GED prep, while Massachusetts has seen a 25 percent to 50 percent surge in registration for the test through Spanish. In North Carolina, there has been a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in testing requests, including to take it in Spanish, prompting adminstrators to order more such tests for next year.

I suspect that the main reason an increase in demand is only being reported from some states is due to a lack of data. The GED test program administrator survey cited here, for example, is characterized as “informal,” and it could be that many states did not respond or have not collected data on this yet.

Leitsinger also suggests that DACA is increasing immigration advocates’ awareness of the lack of adult education services available:

I think it’s fair to say that the immigrant rights movement is discovering the education reform movement … and that they’re really coming to understand, first of all, how hard it is to get a GED and secondly, how limited the capacity of adult education programs is,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “Certainly this 350,000 or so young people are the most immediate concern and the most vulnerable for not making it through the process, and that’s very much related to both the difficulty of pursuing a GED or completing a GED … and also the lack of availability of programs.”

What’s critical about all this is that it means that the relief provided by DACA is going to be much more accessible to those with the means to pay for GED classes. I’d be interested to know the extent to which the administration took into account the availability of free/low-cost adult education services when they formulated this policy, and whether they were concerned that the lack of such services might seem unfair to those with limited means. Secondly, now that there is evidence that the potential DACA applicants are frustrated by the lack of affordable services, whether this presents an opportunity for immigration rights advocates and adult education rights advocates, working together, to ramp up our advocacy on the need for adult education services.