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Do We Have to Have a GED or a Diploma to Apply to a Community College?

by Chris Blake

If you were unable to finish high school or earn your GED, you may think that a college education is beyond your reach. Many community colleges and even traditional four-year colleges and universities have made obtaining a college education possible through alternative means. even if you were unable to finish high school or take the GED test. From applying as a nontraditional student to taking extension courses for credit, there are ways to get accepted to community college.

Nontraditional Status

Many community colleges understand that life plans change and offer nontraditional enrollment as an alternative to standard enrollment. If you're resuming your education after taking time off to work, serve in the military or tend to other priorities beyond your control, applying for nontraditional status may be the way to go. Community colleges that accept nontraditional applications do not require a GED certificate and judge potential students based on work and personal life achievements. Depending on your school, you may even get credit for past work experience.

Ability to Benefit

Although the Department of Education has discontinued providing financial aid to those who take the Ability to Benefit test, this alternative enrollment method for acceptance is still available in states such as New York and California. You will be required to take a test gauging your math, reading and grammar skills to demonstrate your ability to benefit from a post-secondary education. While you won't receive money to attend college, the Ability to Benefit test could still be your ticket to a community college education.

Extension Courses

Many community colleges and four-year universities offer extension courses that you can take online. Although requirements vary from school to school, while completion of these courses do not provide admission preference they do count as college credits that can be used when applying to a more traditional program. Extension courses are generally designed to fulfill associate degree requirements but can be used toward earning a Bachelor of Arts degree if you transfer from a community college to a four-year college.

A Financial Roadblock

While there are alternative methods to earning a community college education, paying for college without the benefit of financial aid that comes with a high school diploma or GED can be difficult. As of July 1, 2012, fiscal budget cuts by the Department of Education eliminated federal student aid for students who passed the Ability to Benefit test or successfully completed extension courses. Unless you are willing to take on private loans, you may face high costs while trying to earn an education.

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