Higher Education Department breaks down barriers for adults with new policy and resources

Stephanie Montoya

75 New Mexicans retroactively awarded secondary credentials, more expected  

The New Mexico Higher Education Department has announced that adult learners pursuing high school equivalency (HSE) credentials no longer have to pass subject area tests within a three-year time period, making hundreds more adult students eligible to receive their secondary credential.  

As a result of the retroactive policy change, 75 New Mexicans who previously passed required GED® exams beyond the three-year time frame will be awarded a secondary credential, with even higher numbers expected for students who passed HiSET® tests. Adult education program administrators plan to reach out to these students to notify them.  

“Adult learners already balance so much in working to attain their high school equivalency credential, between work, taking care of children and family, and studying to pass their tests,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez. “We value all educational and career pathways, and we also understand life happens. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and our education agency will keep finding ways to break down barriers for New Mexicans.”  

Previously, students who failed to take or pass all required subject area tests within three years were required to retake each test. Test fees for the HiSET® or GED®, the two approved high school equivalency tests in New Mexico, can range from $50 to $80 for all required subjects – math, language arts, social studies, and science. The tests can take up to eight hours from start to finish and are known to require extensive preparation, which can make it difficult for working New Mexicans to find time to study and schedule test sessions.  

“A primary goal of adult education in New Mexico is to break down barriers that stand in the way of hardworking adults who want to further their education,” said Adult Education Director Amber Gallup Rodriguez of the New Mexico Higher Education Department. “Whether the obstacles involve access to the internet and devices, transportation and childcare concerns, tight finances, or a lack of time, we are doing all we can to proactively and creatively address them. This rule change will impact many New Mexicans.”   

"The removal of this time restriction provides an invaluable benefit to adult education students. With the dramatic increase in rigor that came with the exams in 2014, students are taking approximately 75 percent longer to pass all subjects. Eliminating the time restrictions helps to ensure that students can take the time necessary to not only pass the test, but to be properly prepared for post-secondary education upon completion. Students no longer will feel the pressure to ‘just pass’. They can truly learn at their own pace,” said New Mexico Adult Education Association President Jamie Trujillo, who also serves as program director of the Albuquerque Adult Learning Center. 

Governor Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Higher Education Department are also investing $200,000 this year toward test vouchers to further support adult students. The vouchers are available to any New Mexico resident to cover fees for the HiSET® or GED®. More than 800 vouchers were awarded last year. Interested students can complete an application for test vouchers on the agency’s website at hed.state.nm.us. 

The state is also investing $160,000 for instructional materials at state-sponsored adult education programs, which provide free test preparation, skills instruction, ESL courses, and other educational services to adult learners statewide. There are currently 26 partnering programs based out of New Mexico colleges and universities, community organizations, and state correctional facilities. Adult education programs served over 5,000 New Mexicans last year, and 1,873 New Mexicans earned a high school equivalency credential.  

Attaining the credential can lead to more than a 50 percent increase in wages over ten years, lower unemployment, and lower incarceration rates. Removing barriers to educational access and degree attainment at all levels continues to be a top priority of the Department. 

To find an adult education provider and apply for test vouchers, visit hed.state.nm.us or contact the Adult Education Division directly at adult.education@hed.nm.gov or (505) 660-8824.