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New Gear Up Grants to Help More Than 69,000 Middle School Students Overcome Barriers to College Access


U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced the award of $41,573,649 for 24 new grants under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) to help more than 69,000 disadvantaged middle school students receive assistance to prepare for and pursue a college education.

“The GEAR UP program partners with the community to reach students early through mentoring, tutoring, financial aid, and other supports,” said Secretary Spellings. “This program aims to assure disadvantaged students that college is within their reach, and then provides them with all the help they need to get there.”

Two types of grants are being awarded: nearly $20.8 million for seven state grants to Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Another $20.77 million is being awarded for 17 partnership grants.

State grants are six-year matching grants that must include both early intervention and scholarship components. Early intervention efforts aim to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students through college awareness and academic preparation activities, financial aid counseling and college admission preparations. The scholarship component requires the state to establish or maintain a financial assistance program for GEAR UP students to attend institutions of higher education.

States are required to spend at least 25 percent and not more than 50 percent of grant funds on the early intervention component, and at least 50 percent on the scholarship component, unless the state receives a waiver.

Partnership projects are also six-year grants that must include at least one low-income middle school, one college or university, and two community or business organizations. Partners work together to provide all students at a particular grade level and their families a range of support services needed to prepare for college - such as higher level coursework, summer academies, mentoring, counseling, and help with the college application process. Projects typically begin in sixth or seventh grade and continue through 12th grade. Grantees must match federal funding and partners may contribute in-kind services for their match.

Some 283 GEAR UP applications were received this year, though only 24 could be funded. In addition to the new grants announced today, GEAR UP is funding 166 continuation projects begun in the last five years - 34 state grants and 132 partnerships projects that serve more than 738,000 students.


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