Layoffs spur surge in adult education classes

The faltering economy has slowed commerce down for many businesses, but not for Bamberg-Barnwell Adult Education.

"We've really seen an influx of people who need a GED to get a job," said Joye Hallman, the director of the center. "In Barnwell, we have probably seen a 20 percent increase in class size here."

A GED is a general equivalency diploma, which is the equivalent of a high school diploma for people who dropped out of school.

Hallman expects the center will get busier still.

"I think with all these layoffs, I think that's going to change," she said. "There are people being laid off that don't have a GED."

Already the center in Barnwell is expanding into a nearby building to give it more classroom space, Hallman said.

The center has six state-certificated teachers, including Hallman.

The Bamberg-Barnwell Adult Education program serves five public school systems; two in Bamberg County and three in Barnwell County. The program has four centers; Barnwell, Denmark, Bamberg and another at the Job Corps site in Bamberg, she said.

"This is my home base," Hallman said of her Barnwell office, which was established about 10 years.
Hallman became the director a year ago. Her previous work experience includes being a special education teacher in the Blackville school system.

The majority of adult education students are between the ages of 17 and 21, she said.
When a potential student comes to the program, the first thing the center does is test the person to see what their education deficiencies are, Hallman said.

"That's the cool thing about adult education - before we put someone in a class, we test them. We find their strengths and weaknesses and tailor an education to them," she said.
Hallman said the center assumes the students entering the program are serious about getting an education now, she said.

"We have very strict discipline expectations. We don't give chance after chance," she said. "I've only had to dismiss a handful of students over the last couple of years."

On May 22, the center will give a GED exam for students at the Barnwell campus for Denmark Technical College. If they pass, the students will have their GED, she said.

"We have a few people who can take it right off the but most people need some brushing up," Hallman said.

The state requirements for earning a high school diploma include 24 credits and passing the HSAP test, she said.

This year, the center implemented a fast-track GED program for students who only need a few credits to complete the state requirements to obtain a high school diploma, she said.

"It's only a six-week class from beginning to end. That's been very successful," Hallman said.
Adult Education also administers the WorkKeys program free to students through the Workforce Investment Act. WorkKeys is a program that tests a person on education that applies directly to a job, such as reading comprehension, reading for instruction, arithmetic and job-related math skills.
Since July 1, 2008, Adult Education has served about 320 people in the two counties, Hallman said.

People interested in Adult Education can call the Barnwell center at (803) 541-6021.