Students in ten West Virginia counties will have extra help preparing for college and career training programs, thanks to a $21 million grant awarded to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission). The U.S. Department of Education announced today that the Commission will receive a “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” (GEAR UP) grant - its second consecutive GEAR UP award - to support college-planning and readiness services for nearly 17,000 students over the next seven years.
“The GEAR UP program has been recognized nationally as one of the most promising pathways to increasing the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in education and training beyond high school,” Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said. “The grant application process is highly competitive, and West Virginia’s award is a testament to the innovative work that is occurring in our state to ensure that all students have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of earning a college diploma.”
Under this new award, the Commission’s GEAR UP program will continue to stress the importance of earning a trade certificate, two-year degree or four-year degree after high school and provide students with resources to prepare for and succeed in college. The program will offer students the chance to participate in free college tours, ACT and SAT test preparation workshops, tutoring, mentoring, financial aid workshops and college preparation summer academies. GEAR UP also will offer college-planning workshops for parents and provide training programs for teachers working in counties the effort serves.
“One of the great things about GEAR UP is that it focuses not only on our kids, but also on their support networks,” Dr. Adam Green, the Commission’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said. “We work with families to show them that degree programs are available and affordable. The program also provides extra training for teachers, so they can better serve students in the classroom.”
“The GEAR UP program has been incredibly successful in West Virginia,” said Dr. Paul L. Hill, the Commission’s Chancellor. “Our research has shown a marked positive difference in parents’ aspirations for their children, with 92 percent of GEAR UP parents believing their child will complete a degree – up from 63 percent when our current program first started. In addition, thanks to West Virginia GEAR UP, more students and parents know about their financial aid options, and thousands of students have toured a college campus. This is progress to celebrate – and build upon.”
Through the new grant, the West Virginia GEAR UP program will serve students in middle and high schools in the following counties: Boone, Fayette, Mason, Mercer, Mingo, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Wirt and Wyoming. Students in the class of 2020 who are enrolled at eligible schools will make up the program’s “cohort” group, meaning they will receive GEAR UP services from their seventh grade year through their first year of college.
Additionally, GEAR UP will provide annual college-planning services to 12th grade students at participating high schools. Three West Virginia colleges — Concord University, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College and West Virginia State University — will provide staff and resources to support the effort.
This marks the third time West Virginia has received a GEAR UP grant and the second time the grant has been awarded to the Commission. Services under the Commission’s previous grant began in 2008 and will continue through July 2015. To learn more about West Virginia GEAR UP and view a list of participating middle and high schools, visit www.wvgearup.org.