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New GEAR UP Grants Awarded to Help More than 116,000 Students Get on the Pathway for Success in College

41 GEAR UP Grants Receive $82 Million Nationwide

U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced the award of $82 million for 41 grants under Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) that will help 116,000 at-risk students to prepare for college and receive the support they need to achieve success in postsecondary education.

Secretary Duncan announced the grantees in New York City at the launch of American Graduate Day, a public awareness and community engagement program to celebrate the work of individuals and groups across the country who are helping students stay on track to college and career successes.

“GEAR UP partnerships and state grants are inspiring examples of communities taking a stand for excellence and equity in education, investing in student success, and creating a culture that helps all young people achieve,” Secretary Duncan said. “I commend all the recipients for their relentless efforts to help students realize their potential through college readiness, access and completion.”

Two types of grants are being awarded: $51,420,120 for 31 partnership grants in 19 states, and $31,264,008 for 10 state grants to Alabama, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Both state and partnership awards are competitive, six or seven-year matching grant programs that target entire grades of students, partner with local organizations and businesses, and include matching local contributions and in-kind services. Grantees serve an entire group of students, usually beginning no later than seventh-grade, and follow them throughout high school.

This year, applicants were encouraged to address how they plan to increase postsecondary success, implement college- and career-ready standards, and work in conjunction with Promise Zones – places where the federal government has partnered with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, improve educational opportunities, and reduce violent crime.

State grants include both a required activities component and a scholarship component. The required activities component seeks to increase college attendance and completion by raising low-income students’ awareness of college and financial aid options, increasing their participation in academically challenging courses, and supporting them through the college admissions process. The scholarship component requires the state to maintain a financial assistance program for GEAR UP students to attend institutions of higher education.

Partnership projects must include at least one low-income middle school, one college or university, and two community or business organizations. Partners work together to provide students and their families with a range of support services needed to prepare for college, including mentoring, counseling, tutoring, and summer programs to succeed in higher level math and other gateway college preparatory courses, as well as information about college and financial aid options.

Examples of this year’s grants include:

  • Berea College in Kentucky, which is already a recipient of our Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhood grants and is part of one of the five Promise Zones, is receiving about $5.5 million to partner a range of postsecondary institutions and key organizations with high-poverty school districts. They will serve almost 7,000 students in 37 schools by providing a comprehensive set of services–to parents, students and schools–that support a sustainable college-going culture.
  • Northeastern Illinois University and Chicago Public Schools District 299 will use its $5.78 million grant to transform the way schools prepare some 7,229 disadvantaged students for high school and success in college.; Beginning in 36 elementary and middle schools that feed into 14 high-needs Chicago public high schools, and partnering with eleven colleges and community based organizations, the project has three objectives: to increase academic preparation and performance of GEAR UP students in higher level math, English and science courses; increase high school graduation and college-going rate; and increase students’ own educational expectations by deepening their knowledge about the benefits of postsecondary education and the availability of student aid.
  • St. Johns University in New York City, N.Y., will use its grant of nearly $450,000 to improve the educational outcomes for 650 low-income, predominantly Hispanic and African-American students. Fourteen additional partners are collaborating on the project: two local education agencies, seven community-based organizations, one state agency, one college program, and three businesses – matching the federal grant dollar for dollar – to provide comprehensive mentoring, enriched technology, college awareness workshops, residential summer programs and a dual enrollment program. The goal is to increase high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment and decrease the need for remediation once students are in college.
  • The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is receiving $3.4 million to use a collective-impact model that will partner colleges, businesses and non-profits, among others, with three urban school districts. The goal is to increase student achievement for nearly 3,000 students through data-driven decisions, develop a sustainable college-going culture, and establish a shared community vision for equitable college access and success.
  • State Council of Higher Education for Virginia will use its $3.4 million grant to help nearly 6,000 middle school students attending some 29 middle schools, including 300 homeless students. Through its partnership with school districts, colleges, non-profits, and business, the project will provide a comprehensive set of services to improve college readiness and increase college enrollment. The project will also follow students through their first year of college by providing mentoring and tutoring to ease their transition to postsecondary education.

In addition to the 41 new grants announced today, GEAR UP is funding 87 continuation projects begun in the last five years that are providing these comprehensive support services to approximately 450,000 middle and high school students.

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