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Become a High School Graduate in Illinois: Program Information

May 31, 2020

Earn a High School Diploma in Illinois

Adults who haven't finished high school but would like to earn a high school diploma instead of a GED may be able to complete the IHOPE program or an adult high school program at a college. A GED requires passing comprehensive tests, which may be intimidating or undesirable for some people. With an adult high school diploma program, students must meet high school graduation requirements, and they can use their previous high school credits towards meeting these requirements. For some students, this may mean only taking a few classes to earn their high school diploma. At any rate, there is no intensive testing, and students are allowed to work at their own pace to reach graduation requirements and earn an actual high school diploma.

Graduation requirements in Illinois include 4 years of language arts; 2 years each of social studies, science, and writing intensive courses; 3 years of math; and one year of art, music, vocational education or foreign language study. Students must also pass a US Constitution test.

Most programs have a minimum age requirement of 16 and require that students are not enrolled in high school or another similar program.

IHOPE

Established by the Illinois Senate, the Illinois Hope and Opportunity Pathways through Education (IHOPE) program was created to help individuals who have dropped out of high school before earning their high school diploma. This program is only for those under the age of 21. The program awards money to schools that are willing to create programs for IHOPE students. This includes high schools and community colleges.

IHOPE programs may include evening classes, summer classes, college programs, vocational training and work experience. Programs may be taught in classrooms and online or be self-paced. Programs integrate education and hands-on experience to help students meet their graduation requirements.

College Diploma Programs

Community colleges may offer adult high school programs for adults who have not graduated from high school. Some programs may offer a range of courses that allow students to earn any amount of credits they need, but other schools may only be designed for students who need to earn a few credits and can do so in a part-time program. The main goal of this type of program is to help students earn the remaining credits they did not earn while enrolled in high school in order to meet graduation requirements. The student's original high school or current local high school issues the diploma upon completion of the program.

Programs may require attending classes or meetings on campus. In some cases, programs are independent and self-paced. Students may meet with counselors to document their progress.

Why Get a High School Diploma in Illinois?

Receiving a high school diploma or an equivalent certificate greatly impacts a person's employment and earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2019 the unemployment rate was 3.7% for individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent versus 5.4% for those without. Median weekly earnings were $746 for those with a diploma versus $592 for those without.

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