When the economy turned sour about a year and a half ago, Josh Moseley, 30, couldn't find steady work installing floors and doing stonework.
He donated plasma to help pay his bills. He moved back in with his parents to cut his expenses. And he enrolled at Granby Education Center in Cayce to take some classes and prepare for the GED exam.
Moseley, who dropped out of high school years ago, plans to take the GED, a high-school equivalency exam, in the next few weeks and join the growing ranks of South Carolinians who have improved their job opportunities.
Thursday, the state Department of Education announced that last year, 73 percent, or more than 6,600, South Carolinians who took the GED test passed. That meets the national pass rate for the first time in state's history.
It's up from a 68.8 percent pass rate in 2007.
The state's pass rate now ranks 32nd among the 50 sates and District of Columbia, according to the state Department of Education.
A GED is required for entrance into the military and colleges for applicants who do not have high-school diplomas. Also, many employers now require job applicants to have a high-school diploma or GED.
The test quizzes students in math, English, science and social studies. They also must write an essay.
The national test is pegged to national education standards and is designed so 40 percent of high-school seniors will not pass it on the first attempt, said David Stout, director of the State Department of Education's Office of Adult Education.
"A sputtering economy leads people to rethink their educational options and makes the GED more attractive," said state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, who has a son with a GED. "People without jobs or those seeking better, more secure jobs are looking to get a high-school diploma. They know it will help them find work."
While GED testing is coordinated from Columbia, Rex said the Department of Education plans to set up five stand-alone test centers at adult education facilities in Florence, Dorchester, Greenville, Richland and York counties.
Ideally, 15 additional centers would be added within two years, he said.
"Our goal is that no South Carolinian would be more than 30 minutes from a test center and the opportunity to earn an equivalency diploma," Rex said.
Moseley said the GED will change his life. He hopes to begin a career as an EMT.
"I feel great, really excited," Moseley said. "It's very different from when I was 17 and didn't have much of an attention span and just wasn't interested in school."