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The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), which has helped more than 13 million students nationwide graduate from high school on time, secured more federal money for its college-readiness program.

Philadelphia officials welcomed the announcement of $301 million in federal funding for a program that tasks schools, colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations with priming students for college as early as sixth grade. Thirty-five elementary and middle schools in Philadelphia will share $29 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education. That’s roughly $4.3 million each year for the next seven years.

Nathan Monell, president and CEO of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, said this year grant funding to 40 programs would help an estimated 116,00 students deemed at risk of dropping out of school. About $22.1 million in funding will go to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, a network of state-run universities that include Cheyney University and West Chester University, in support of GEAR UP programs across the state. That equates to annual installments of $3.4 million.

Philadelphia U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, architect of legislation that created GEAR UP, said the funding was key to providing students with resources, support and preparation needed to help them reach their potential.

“This program is more than just an investment in our students,” Fattah said on Monday in a statement. “It’s an investment in the entire community; when our young people succeed in the classroom, the entire community succeeds.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauded the program saying it was an investment in student success, assisted by a culture that helps young people achieve. The allocation comes amid calls for increased funding for GEAR UP after the New America Foundation called the college-readiness program among the most promising of all funded by the federal government.

About 1,200 people, including educators and practitioners, will talk about best practices and innovative programs during an upcoming four-day workshop in Philadelphia. The conference is aimed at strengthening GEAR UP programs across the country, and Fattah is expected to deliver a keynote speech. Host city Philadelphia is fitting because it served as a model for the GEAR UP programs across the country, officials said.

Source: The Philadelphia Tribune