The Iowa College Student Aid Commission has received a $22 million federal grant for an estimated 6,300 low-income students over the next seven years.
Iowa is one of 10 states selected by the U.S. Department of Education for the GEAR UP award, a press release announced Tuesday. That money will target seventh grade students on free and reduced-price lunch at low-income schools and follow them through high school and their first year of college.
"While the percent of students who enroll in college immediately after high school graduation has increased for middle- and upper-income students, it has remained stagnant for low-income students," Gov. Terry Branstad said in the release. "GEAR UP Iowa addresses these problems 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."
This is the second time Iowa received an award of this type. The first award funded students from 2008-2014. About 50 percent of those students took advantage of GEAR UP scholarships of up to $2,600 to continue post-secondary education.
What's new this year is the commission will keep in touch with GEAR UP students through their first year of college, offering services and support, said Heather Doe, communications coordinator for the Iowa College Student Aid Commission.
The commission works with school districts and community partners to leverage services a student might need and instill a college-going culture, Doe said.
Districts targeted by this grant are: Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Columbus, Davenport, Denison, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Perry, Sioux City and Storm Lake.
Districts were selected based on geographic distribution and if they had 50 percent or greater free or reduced-price lunch eligible middle school buildings and participated in GEAR UP partnerships.
For the first year of the new grant, the commission will receive about $3.2 million. The total $22 million in federal dollars will be matched by non-federal dollars from 36 partners across the state.