Nearly 140 students from throughout Northeast Iowa Community College's (NICC) district will receive their General Educational Development (GED) diplomas in December.

Seventy-eight GED students from the greater Dubuque area are earning their GED this month, with many participating in a graduation ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at the Town Clock Business Center, located at 680 Main St. in Dubuque.

In the Calmar area, 61 students will earn their GED credentials. The ceremony is Thursday, Dec. 19, in the Student Center cafeteria on the NICC Calmar campus. The campus is located on Hwy. 150 in Calmar.

Both ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

Keynote speakers at both events include Karen Davidson, NICC Learning Resource Coordinator, and NICC President Liang Chee Wee, Ph.D. Because the graduations officially conclude the GED test format in the State of Iowa before a transition to a different assessment in 2014, Davidson will give a presentation on the history of the GED program.

Upcoming changes

This fall, the Iowa Department of Education announced that a replacement for the GED assessment instrument, called HiSET and designed by the Educational Testing Service, will be implemented statewide beginning on Jan. 2, 2014. The current GED test format will expire Dec. 31, and students who have started their testing work on the former GED format will be required to begin with the HiSET in January. The changes being introduced are part of Iowa's shift to the High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) format and the new HiSET assessment is 100% computer based.

Students who take the HiSET assessment will be required to register online and have basic computer skills, according to Sharon Speckhard, NICC Adult Education and Literacy Director. NICC offers community members tutoring, study areas, practice testing and test administration throughout the year.

"Students need enough keyboard knowledge to complete the test, including the required essay portion. Although some students may still take the paper version of the test because of specific accommodations requirements, most students will be taking everything on computer," Speckhard said.

Iowa is one of seven states that will change to HiSET in 2014, and the new test format does offer additional benefits to students, including a lower cost. The HiSET costs $60 per student, including test and diploma fees, which is a savings from the former GED test's total cost of $75. Students will also not be charged for two re-tests per subject occurring within a 12-month period.

For more information on the new HSED format at NICC, visit or call (888) 642-2338, ext. 105.