PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Senate leaders said Wednesday none of the state’s General Educational Development (GED) students in 2014 received a fee waiver to take the exam, despite a state law that covers the cost of the test for those with a limited income.

In a letter written to Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, Sen. President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and her leadership team called for immediate implementation of the waivers.

“Cost should not be a barrier to taking the high school equivalency exam, especially in a state facing a significant skills gap and high unemployment,” Paiva Weed said in a prepared statement. “We can no longer be patient with bureaucracy.”

The bill to provide fee waivers to certain GED students was signed into law in July, but no waivers were granted over the last six months. GED Testing Service, the for-profit company that administers the exam, raised the price to take the test from $50 in 2013 to $120 in 2014.

The Senate leaders’ letter came after WPRI.com reported a massive decline in the number of students earning their GED in 2014, mirroring a national trend that emerged after testing officials aligned the exam with the Common Core for the first time.

A total of 200 Rhode Island students had earned their GED in 2014 as of Dec. 8, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), a 92% decline from 2013, when 2,363 local students earned their high school equivalency certificate.

The drop in GED recipients in 2014 is similar to a dip that occurred in 2002, the last time changes were made to the exam. That year, Rhode Island saw 779 students earn their GED, down from 2,369 in 2001, a 67% decline. Nationally, there was a 43% decrease in GED recipients in 2002.

The GED was established in 1942 to help members of the military returning from overseas prove they were qualified to apply for civilian jobs. Since then it’s evolved into the most well-known equivalency test for non-high school graduates in the country. In 2013, 713,960 U.S. students completed – but didn’t necessarily pass – the exam, according to GED Testing Service’s annual report.Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan