Gateway FAQ: Options for completing high school, GED, HiSET, and TASC

Monday, October 12, 2015

For young people who have dropped out of high school, it can be a challenge to reconnect to their educational pathway. However, there are options available in every community for completing a high school degree or an equivalency.

What options do I have to complete a high school degree or equivalency?

Gateway to College

If you’re interested in pursuing a postsecondary degree or credential, completing high school is the best option. Some young people will choose to re-enroll in high school through one of Gateway to College’s 41 programs. For others, a district-specific reengagement program in their area will allow them to complete their degree.

Equivalency Tests

The most common option, other than completing a high school diploma, is to take one of three equivalency tests – the GED, the HiSET, or the TASC. Prior to 2014, the GED was exclusive option for a high school equivalency. In 2014, the GED was significantly overhauled to meet Common Core Standards. It is now a more rigorous test than it was prior to 2014, and many states use one of the other two options. Currently, 40 states still offer the GED Test, 15 offer the HiSET, and 6 offer the TASC. Some states offer two options, and a few offer all three.

Since the revamped GED is still relatively recent, and results from the test are new, states have been changing which tests they offer. For the most up to date information, be sure to check with your state Department of Education prior to pursuing one of the three tests.

GED (General Equivalency Diploma)

Subject Areas Tested: Reasoning through language arts, Mathematical reasoning, Science, and Social studies

Question Types: Computer-based

Cost: Varies, but generally $80 plus $5 for each of the four tests

States offered in: GED is offered in 39 states.

HiSET (High School Equivalency Test)

Subject Areas Tested: Language Arts (Reading and Writing), Science, Social Studies, and Mathematics

Question Types: Computer-based or paper-based

Cost: Varies by state, but generally $50 to $65

States offered in: HiSET is the only option in Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, and New Hampshire. It is one of the options in Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming, and California (Long Beach and Los Angeles)

TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion)

Subject Areas Tested: Language Arts (Reading and Writing), Science, Social Studies, and Mathematics

Question Types: Computer-based or paper-based

Cost: Varies by state, but generally $52 to $65

States offered in: TASC is the only option in Indiana, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. It is one of the options in California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming.

How do I find a high school completion program in my area?

Gateway to College programs operate in 41 communities in 21 states. Visit our program map to discover whether Gateway to College is available in your community. If a Gateway to College program is not available, many districts operate their own reengagement centers or partner with a nonprofit program that allows students to complete their degrees. The best way to find these programs is by searching for alternative high schools, re-engagement centers, or dropout recovery programs.

Can I get accepted to college by completing an equivalency?

The GED and equivalency tests are accepted by 95% of colleges. However, most colleges will not admit students who do not meet subject completion requirements. On top of the subject completion, most colleges also still require scores from the ACT or SAT standardized tests.

Where can I go to read more about my options?

We’ve found a few resources that can help navigate the difficulty of choosing an educational pathway:

High School Equivalency Degree Loses Its Dominant PositionThe Wall Street Journal

High School Graduates Rates: The Good, The Bad, and The AmbiguousNPR News

What’s the Value of Graduating High School Versus Earning a GED – KQED Education

Incomes of Young Adults by Educational AttainmentNational Center for Education Statistics

The Rising Cost of Not Going to CollegePew Research Center

Give Change, Give a Second Chance

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Dear friends,

Every day, formerly disconnected youth are seizing the opportunity offered by Gateway to College programs and exceeding what they once thought was possible for themselves. I came to Gateway to College National Network in the spring, moved by the transformative experiences of thousands of Gateway to College students. They continue to inspire me.   

Check out some highlights from 2015:

Gateway to College graduates a record number of students. In 2015, Gateway to College programs graduated our largest number of students to date—nearly 1,000 formerly disconnected students completed the programs with a high school diploma and an average of 22 college credits. The majority of these students will continue pursuing a college credential, working towards a certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree. They are well on their way to fulfilling careers and self-sustaining futures.

We begin our second decade with strength. Thanks to generous investments from partners at Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, Tipping Point Community, Kresge Foundation, College Spark Washington, and others, GtCNN is able to conduct original research, collaborate with our 41 network partners, and begin new efforts to increase student success.

We have started new initiatives to support disconnected youth. We are piloting new curriculum in Washington aimed at reinforcing student motivation and increasing persistence. We are working with new partners, including the Casey Family Programs, to better support the many Gateway students who have been in foster care. And, we are launching Ambassador Councils in two regions, allowing us to grow partnerships and be more effective in areas with Gateway programs.

And we have much more work to do:

  •  1 in 5 high school students don’t graduate on time; most of those will not earn a high school diploma.

  •  Nationwide, the high school graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students is 73.3%, significantly below that of their peers.

  •  There are an estimated 5.5 million Opportunity Youth (16 to 24 year olds who are out of school or out of work) in the U.S. today, each of whom costs taxpayers on average $13,900 per year.

  •  See more in the infographic below.

With your support through #GiveChange—an annual event to raise resources and awareness for the national network of Gateway to College programs and services—we are able to foster new partnerships to leverage school district funding, enabling formerly disconnected youth to go to college.

For over a decade we have designed, implemented, and stewarded programs that have reconnected thousands of previously disengaged youth to education and postsecondary pathways. Your gift of any amount will help give opportunity to the next generation of youth who need a second chance.

Thank you sharing our belief that all youth, when provided with educational opportunity and the right supports, can thrive. Give Change. Give a Second Chance.

Warm regards,

Emily Froimson


Gateway to College National Network

Everybody Will Eventually be a Teacher’s Pet

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Our current research project, Understanding Academic Success, included more than 60 interviews and 20 shadow days with the most successful students in Gateway to College programs[i]. Our goal was to understand what experiences help these students earn their high school diplomas through Gateway to College. Data collection wrapped up in June, and our research team is beginning its analysis. While results will not be available until next year, we have come across several statements that highlight the power of relationships. Gateway to College Resource Specialists, Instructors, and Staff are often cited by our students as being critical to their success.

As the Fall term begins, program staff spend a good deal of their time tracking down students who miss class, assisting students with transportation needs, and just listening when an ear is needed. We wanted to take the opportunity to share what Gateway to College students say about these moments, and how much they contribute to their success in completing high school. To all of our Gateway to College program staff: thank you for making a profound difference in so many lives!

  • I feel like the support that I got right away when I went in there [to the Gateway Orientation] to discuss signing up and what you have to do it. It was like, “Oh my gosh, that would be amazing we’d love to have you, this is what you need to do that”; like welcoming, let us fix what’s going on. That is what made me feel like yes,  someone is actually going to help.

  • Every single student had attention. And that’s one of the main things about Gateway—is that every student, no matter if they are A average, B average, C average, they all get attention and that was really good for me. That helped me out a lot.

  • The counselors seek you out. They come talk to you, and they make you stay involved with the program and also they kind of assist you in helping you figure out what you want to do or if you have any problems.

  • My high school experience wasn’t very good. Gateway is, well, the exact opposite. It’s supportive and it challenges [you].

  • I really learned to like my education.

  • I don’t think there’s anything negative about Gateway to College. It took a failing student to a straight A student, you know.

  • And my government teacher, she’s tough. She doesn’t take any bologna, but if you respect her, she’ll respect you too…Some people don’t realize it now, but she’s actually helping us think about ourselves instead of just writing stuff down.

  • I love the faculty because they’re all so loving and they care about you.

  • I ended up taking a year off so that I could have my son and focus on that …. So in between that time my advisor was keeping in contact with me. If she wouldn’t have, who knows?

  • [Gateway to College is] very life-changing. It changes your whole thought about learning and about going to college, because I never thought I would go to college.

  • My biggest achievement I think… I think it’s more of a personal thing because right now I feel like I’m able to think critically a lot more than I used to.

  • They are just more on top of you. They give you a lot of time to do the work, but if they see you not doing anything, because I do sometimes do that. I try to get good grades, but they will talk to me about it. Or if I am disrupting the class, if I am talking, because I talk a that’s pretty good…and the counselors are all pretty cool.

  • What I like is, like I don’t know just the size. The one-on-ones. The relationships that you grow while being there.

  • They [Gateway Staff] make you feel like it’s a family.

  • All the teachers will let you know that they’re there for you. They won’t let you fail.

  • I really like how supportive everybody is and I like how realistic they are about it. In that first quarter they didn’t like fluff anything. They were like this is going to be hard, this is going to be challenging, and you are going to have to put your effort forward and put your best in and I really like how they were honest and they were supportive of you.

  • They won’t give up on you. No matter if you give up on yourself. No matter how hard you try to give up. They will stay pushing you.

  • [At] high school I believe they sort of give more attention to the students that are doing better. That’s why they call them teacher’s pets. So things like that. With Gateway everybody will eventually be a teacher’s pet. Eventually. I guarantee it.

This research is funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York

[i] Students were eligible for the study if they had a 3.0 college GPA as of January 2015, and had been in Gateway to College for at least two terms. Interviews were conducted by phone or video chat. Shadows were done in person. 

Lessons Learned from Launching Enrollment Strategies for Out-of-School Youth

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gateway to College specializes in enrolling out-of-school youth (OSY) on career and education pathways.

Out-of-school youth (OSY) are, by definition, difficult to track because they aren’t engaged in our education system. Gateway to College has the largest database of previously OSY in the country through our nationwide programs that reengage youth on meaningful education pathways. Our data shows interesting patterns about OSY – where they are referred from, how they are engaged, and what reengagement efforts are likely to yield the best results.

In our work, we have learned a number of lessons that can be applied to your organization:

Strategic planning ensures enrollment efforts work. In order to launch an effective enrollment strategy, it’s necessary to plan. A strategic enrollment plan is multifaceted and efforts must be continuously evaluated to ensure that you and your partners are spending time on areas that yield the most positive results. There is no single solution that works for every community. A strategic enrollment plan is a living document that is flexible and can adapt to community needs and opportunities.

Student volunteer recruitment strategies are highly effective. Of all stakeholders in this work, current students know best where to find OSY. Gateway to College has launched student-advised efforts to hit the streets, hangouts, and community centers to engage OSY where they spend time. 

Technology is key. Based on our nationwide technology survey, in partnership with Pacific Research and Evaluation (PRE), Gateway students are wireless and the majority (87%) have smartphones. While a YouTube video, social media, or a website are good first steps, how do you ensure your messaging gets to OSY’s phones? Gateway to College has developed an outreach strategy that combines technology and more traditional forms of communication. We utilize posters, fliers, and word-of-mouth along with Search Engine Optimization and smart technology to increase the effectiveness of our outreach and increase site visitors. To learn more about the PRE study, listen to our recorded webinar from September 22. 

Enrolling OSY is a collaborative venture. Many nonprofits and community-based organizations in your community are looking for these youth. There are more OSY than there are programs to serve them. Rather than competing, by working collaboratively organizations can widen the net and ensure OSY are engaged on a pathway that meets their needs and aligns with their goals, while ensuring the programs serving them remain sustainable.

Many OSY are already engaged in other federal/state programs. While OSY aren’t engaged in education, they are often engaged in other social programs including juvenile justice, welfare, workforce, and/or foster youth services. Creating partnerships and referral loops with these federally funded programs meets the needs of all parties.

Student persistence is paramount. Enrollment is only the first step. Student persistence must be part of the strategy from the beginning, and it begins at first contact with OSY. 

Gateway to College has developed a Strategic Enrollment Planning Program through a federal grant from the Social Innovation Fund. We have collaborated in communities around the country to recruit and reengage OSY on education and career pathways. We help organizations meet WIOA eligibility requirements, engage OSY on career pathways, and find solutions to complicated problems. 

Join us on October 14th for a webinar where Mary Wiener and Jeremy Asay will provide detail on some of the above lessons and share our data-supported outreach strategies to enroll OSY on career and educational pathways. Register here. 

Learn more about how Gateway to College can partner with your organization to find and enroll OSY. 

Read more about our federally funded enrollment project. 

Our Experience with Google Adwords Grant for Nonprofits

Monday, September 21, 2015

Nonprofit organizations, especially smaller organizations, often have employees who are asked to wear multiple hats. At Gateway to College, our two-person communications team oversees our website, social media, marketing, editing, design, press releases, and more. As an organization, we’ve developed a strong brand, and we believe we’re telling a compelling story about our impact on the world. We’ve generally developed strong practices in each of these areas we oversee, but we don't always have the deepest background in each. 

In August, we launched a new Gateway to College National Network website. Our website launch was the culmination of months of hard work in refining language and creating a style that supported the Gateway to College brand. As we began our work in visioning and designing the site last spring, we were confronted with terminology such as Traffic Generation, Keyword Research, and Conversation Optimization. We knew a bit about SEO and linking blogs and keywords to our site, but we didn’t have the strategic background that would truly help us increase our impact online.

As we were beginning to research more about online presence and tools such as Google for Nonprofits, we met John Randak and Okay Grow. Okay Grow had the exact expertise that we needed. Over the course of three or four months, as our new website was taking shape, we had periodic check-ins with John. Okay Grow worked with us in a host of areas: researching and refining keywords and phrases; applying for a Google Ads Grant (an application that was successful!); and building an ad campaign that complemented the keywords built into our website.

Our new website has only been live for less than two months. In that short period of time, we’ve seen unprecedented traffic. Our website, social media, GtCNN Blog and Google Ads blend seamlessly into each other and make our online presence quite dynamic. Digital marketing and website optimization isn’t always where a nonprofit organization chooses to place its resources. In our case, it was one of the best investments we’ve made as an organization.

Gateway FAQ: Can you get your high school diploma after dropping out?

Monday, September 14, 2015

In a word, yes. If you’re 16 – 21 and you’ve left high school or are behind in credits, there is an option for you to complete your high school diploma if you live in one of the 41 communities Gateway to College serves. Gateway to College helps students not only earn their high school diploma, but also college credit toward a meaningful credential. The best part? It’s free for qualified students.

Is Gateway Right for Me?

Traditional high school doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re experiencing difficulty in your course work or your home life, Gateway provides a supportive classroom environment that helps students thrive. At Gateway, the teachers, staff, and counselors truly care about your success. It isn’t an easy ride, though. Attending a Gateway program takes a significant amount of work and personal commitment. The important thing to know is you’re not alone. If you put in the work, someone will be there to help you through.

How does it work?

All students begin the program by participating in an intensive Foundation term with their Gateway to College peers. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to build academic habits and study skills, learn time management techniques, explore career choices, and gain confidence with the support of instructors and resource specialists trained to help you adjust to college life.

After successfully completing the Foundation term, you’ll transition to the comprehensive campus, taking courses with the college’s general student population. These courses follow a pathway to ensure all credits count toward both a diploma and your college goals. Students in good standing remain in Gateway to College until they earn their high school diploma or turn 21. After you graduate Gateway or turn 21, Gateway staff will provide you with an individualized plan for continuing your college education.

Can I get into college after I graduate?

Yes. At graduation, you’ll receive a high school diploma issued from the high school you most recently attended. Upon graduation, 73% of Gateway graduates continue their postsecondary education. In fact, you’ll already have been in college, and Gateway graduates earn an average of 22 college during their time in the program. Gateway staff will help you create a plan for continuing your education and meeting your career goals.

How do I apply?

Each Gateway location has a different application process. You can find the list of Gateway programs by visiting our program page, where you can contact your program directly. In general, to apply to a Gateway to College program, you’ll need to attend an info session at the college and fill out an application.

Where can I learn more?

If you want to learn more about what it’s like to be in the Gateway to College program, visit our student stories blog. You can read the experiences of #GatewayGrads, and see what it’s like firsthand. 

Women Wonder Writers Inspires Gateway Students and Staff Alike in Riverside

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The 41 Gateway to College programs that operate in 21 states are not only part of a national network, they’re critical components of local community efforts to provide more opportunities for young people. As programs become more ingrained in their communities, they build key partnerships that provide additional support for students and help students recognize opportunities available to them when they graduate. The Gateway College & Career Academy (GCCA) at Riverside Community College has been serving students at Riverside, California, since 2004.

GCCA and Women Wonder Writers (WWW), a Riverside nonprofit dedicated to serving at-risk youth, have a long-standing partnership in working toward the common goal of educating, empowering, and strengthening young people in their community. GCCA secures Arts and writing programs offered by WWW staff and volunteers for their “Bridge” students, who are awaiting placement into the Gateway Foundation Term. The 10-week program allows each student to discover their “authentic selves” through writing and art projects. It is offered one day each week as an extracurricular activity to GCCA’s new students, and helps students more easily transition into a dual enrollment program.

In Spring 2015, Gateway College & Career Academy celebrated more than 25 GCCA graduates of The Write of Your Life program. Most of the GCCA staff (pictured) attended an educational luncheon sponsored by WWW and featuring Erin Gruwell, founder of Freedom Writers. Erin shared her story of reaching students in unconventional ways, and getting them to be readers and learners. Her work inspired the GCCA staff as they prepared to kick off the new school year. It has been said that working with youth needs constant recommitment – the “Healing Young H’Arts” event allowed GCCA staff to have their inspirational work recognized and their souls fed as they enter a new academic year. Most importantly, it served as a reminder that our students succeed when communities come together to provide holistic support. 

Pictured above, GCCA Staff attending WWW luncheon

Top Row: Zack Taylor, Linda Montgomery, Mercedes Sapien; 2nd Row: Misty Loucks-Messenger; 3rd Row:  David Medina, Elena Bautista, Brenda Forsse, Miguel Contreras, Kathy Bywater, Scott Jacobs, Michael Pass

Mapping the Opportunity Gap: the Importance of Location in Serving Students

Monday, August 31, 2015
By Devora Shamah

Each community is unique and it is important that we understand these nuances across our network. Gateway to College National Network currently works with 41 partners in 21 states. The data we regularly collect provide basic demographic characteristics of the student population at each program. These data show how gender, ethnicity, and age ratios differ at each program. We know how far students have to go to reach their high school diploma, and their average GPA before entering the program. As we explored other ways to understand the communities that GtC programs serve, we looked to publically available data as a way to learn more. 

With the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York we were able to undertake a new research project last summer. Using census data, we attached community characteristics to available zip code information. We used maps to display this information, which provided a visual representation of how programs differ. These maps illustrate not only how community resources differ, but how the size of the geographic region each program serves is different. Some programs serve students who live close, while other programs serve students coming from near and far. Some programs serve many school districts, adding a layer of complexity in making sure high school requirements are met and transportation is not an obstacle for students. 

We examined income, education levels in communities, and the intersections of race and poverty around the network. We learned that 8 GtC programs have 50% or more students living in one of the poorest zip codes in the United States. While the students themselves may not come from families that are living below the poverty line, communities with concentrated poverty have fewer resources and present different challenges to young people than communities where more families have resources[1]. This information is useful to allow programs to prioritize community partnerships and advocate for the resources students need.

The analysis highlighted programs serving communities with resources. For example, 6 programs are in communities where education attainment is higher than the national average. For these programs, these data highlight community resources that can be leveraged for students. Communities with more adults who have successfully navigated college provide a large pool of mentors to assist students navigating the system as well as examples of what opportunities come with college degrees and credentials. Again, the students may or may not come from families that reflect the average, but their community likely has more resources. 


This analysis reminded us of how poverty and race intersect in our country. Twenty-eight percent of GtC students live in a zip code where the majority of the population identifies as people of color. Recent events in our country demonstrate that segregated communities often experience strict policing and unfair lending practices, along with other legacies of racial segregation. Sixty percent of GtC students living in communities that are home to a majority of people of color live in communities where the poverty rate is above 20%, serving as another illustration of how often poverty and race go hand in hand in our country. 

GtC students have high aspirations for their education, career, and role in our communities. Regardless of the neighborhood surrounding the college campus GtC students attend, it is important to understand what neighborhoods students are coming from and traveling through to get there. Gateway to College students are successful in part due to the holistic support that staff members provide to support students as they navigate in and out of school challenges. Our mapping work provides network staff with more tools to understand how communities are unique and provides a new lens on how to leverage community resources to deliver more opportunities for students as they reengage with their education. Our programs work hard to honor the strengths and experiences each student brings to Gateway. Attention to collecting and interpreting data assists staff and students to better negotiate the complexity of aspiring higher, while honoring the work and struggles of their families and neighbors. 

 The full report is available here

[1] Charles, C. Z. (2003). The Dynamics of Racial Residential Segregation. Annual Review of Sociology, 29(1), 167–207.

Gateway to College Back to School: #OnMySide

Saturday, August 22, 2015
back to school gtcnnGoing back to school in fall can be exciting—seeing friends, taking new classes, starting a new chapter. But, if you’ve been out of the classroom for months and it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to graduate on time, it can be discouraging. You watch as your friends take their next steps to graduation without you. But then your school counselor or a friend tells you about Gateway to College, a program that could give you a second chance at your education. Would you take it?

None of our students come back to class without support and encouragement—at some point we all need a helping hand. Gateway to College provides youth with caring mentors and academic coaches who are on their side throughout their journey to graduation.  This back-to-school season, we want you to share your story. Who helped you succeed in school or take the next step to college? Who encouraged you? Who was on your side?

My teacher, Tammy, was always #OnMySide. She helped me with math when I was struggling and always believed that I could succeed. – Roxanne

Tell Your Story 

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We’re diving into another school year full of stories, triumphs, and new successes! Please join our newsletter and stay up to date on inspiring moments from Gateway to College programs, new initiatives, what we’re learning, and how you can get involved. Join the Gateway family!

Gateway to College Strategic Enrollment Plans

Friday, August 21, 2015


The Gateway to College National Network office works closely with our programs on initiatives intended to support and enhance their work with students and in the communities. One such project has developed over the past 18 months, where national office staff has worked with eight programs to increase their enrollments through the development and implementation of new enrollment tactics.

In the spring of 2014, the eight programs gathered for a strategic planning session to determine their strengths and shortcoming when it came to enrolling new students. The planning session led to the formation of teams, who worked together to create and implement Strategic Enrollment Plans in early 2015. Their work over the past year culminated in the Gateway to College Summer Enrollment Conference, hosted in Portland in June 2015. At the conference, the enrollment teams shared best practices with colleagues from 36 Gateway to College programs who, in turn, began development of their own enrollment plans. 

As we move in to fall, and a new academic year, the eight enrollment teams are continuing to roll out their plans and GtCNN staff is working on producing enrollment elearning modules that will be made available for all programs in the network.


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