Iowa adults who never graduated from high school will have more ways to obtain a high school equivalency diploma under a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad this morning.

The legislation, House File 473, was a key legislative priority for United Way of Central Iowa and several state partners, which are working to ramp up postsecondary training options to meet the growing demand for high-skill positions. More than 200,000 Iowa adults currently do not have a high school diploma or equivalency.

"This is an incredible opportunity for more Central Iowans to achieve a high school equivalency diploma and be on a path to financial stability," said Elisabeth Buck, chief community impact officer for United Way of Central Iowa. "The additional pathways recognize the diverse needs of our adult learners, while continuing to place high standards on achieving a degree. It also benefits employers who are seeking skilled workers."

The law adopts the recommendation of the High School Equivalency Diploma Task Force to recognize Iowa community colleges' adult diploma programs. These programs offer the ability to bundle prior high school coursework with secondary or postsecondary education courses.

Forty percent of Iowans who have dropped out of high school are less than one course away from attaining their high school diploma. Currently, the only way to achieve a high school equivalency diploma is by taking HiSET classes and passing the HiSET assessments.

"Those who have a high school diploma earn significantly more throughout their lifetime than those without it," said Buck. "This law has been a key priority for United Way to support achieving our goal of increasing the percentage of Central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient to 75 percent by 2020."

Last year, United Way of Central Iowa launched Bridges to Success, an initiative to assist 10,000 adults in earning their high school equivalency diploma by 2020 through innovative solutions such as supportive coaching.