About GEAR UP
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a competitive grant program of the U.S. Department of Education that increases the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education by providing States and local community-education partnerships six-to-seven year grants to offer support services to high-poverty, middle and high schools.
The program serves at least one grade level of students, beginning no later than the 7th grade, following them through high school graduation and their first year in college. GEAR UP provides critical early college awareness and support activities like tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation, financial education and college scholarships to improve access to higher education for low income, minority and disadvantaged first-generation students and their families. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.
The program mandates cooperation among K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, local and state education entities, businesses and community-based organizations. These dynamic partnerships are required to leverage local resources to match the federal investment dollar for dollar, creating a common agenda that more effectively facilitates the educational aspirations and attainment of students from low-income communities.
The GEAR UP initiative was authorized by Title IV of the 1998 Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) and was signed into public law (P.L.105-244) on September 29, 1998 by President Clinton. In signing the law, the President remarked that:
In today’s global economy, what you earn depends on what you learn. This bill will make it easier for millions of Americans to get the higher education they need to succeed in the global economy…It responds to the challenge I issued in the State of the Union to create a ‘High Hopes’ initiative, where colleges reach down to middle school students in high-poverty areas to give them the support they need to be ready for higher education.
Modeled on successful college access work (such as I HAVE A DREAM, Project GRAD, and several institutional and state system initiatives), GEAR UP was created to provide communities with a comprehensive, holistic and research-driven initiative to prepare low-income and minority students for higher education.
The legislation described the purpose of the GEAR UP project as encouraging education partnerships to:
- Provide or maintain a guarantee of financial assistance to participating low-income students pursing postsecondary education.
- Provide academic and co-curricular support services to students at risk of dropping out of school.
- Provide students and families with information demonstrating the advantages of pursuing higher education, as well as options for financing higher education.
To ensure that GEAR UP merits continued federal financial support, the Secretary of Education provides Congress with performance data (as mandated by the Government Performance Results Act of 1993, (GPRA). These indicators are important to GEAR UP professionals as they define the reporting and evaluation mandates of the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE).
Types of Grants
GEAR UP funds, regardless of the type of grant, serve to support state and local education reform initiatives, fostering sustained systemic change in middle and high schools. There are two types of grants:
State grants are competitive six-year or seven-year matching grants that must include both an early intervention component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students and a scholarship component.
Partnership grants are competitive six-year or seven-year matching grants that must support an early intervention component and may support a scholarship component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students.
For more information on the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness Program (GEAR UP), visit the U.S. Department of Education's website for the program. There you will find useful information on the program's funding status, awards history, legislation, regulations and guidance documents, as well as perfomance reports, contacts and frequently asked questions.
Are GEAR UP services available in your state or region? You can find out by clicking on this interactive map. Here you will find where GEAR UP programs currently serve students, the size of their grants, how many students they serve and a link to their website for more information.