In the News


ACT Launches First in Series of Reports on the Impact of GEAR UP,
Advances Work of Partnership to Improve Low-Income Students’ College Readiness

IOWA CITY, Iowa—Low-income students represent more than 40 percent of students under age 18 in the United States. Every year, millions of these students fall behind their more privileged peers and either drop out of college or don’t go to college at all.

To learn how to empower more of these students to become prepared for post-high school success, ACT has partnered with 14 states and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) to form the College and Career Readiness Evaluation Consortium (CCREC), an ambitious, multi-year project to examine the effectiveness of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). GEAR UP, which serves around 650,000 students annually, is a federally funded program aimed at increasing low-income students’ college readiness. The partnership will collect and analyze GEAR UP intervention and outcomes data.

“This research project is essential to advancing our understanding of how we can help improve the lives of students across the country,” said Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners. “We know the complexities and difficulties involved in researching the effects across states of national programs like GEAR UP,” Larimore said. “A research partnership like CCREC is an important model for successfully addressing such difficulties, and we are excited to be associated with the project.”

The project will produce a series of reports. The first, Core Research Program: Results from the First Wave of the Base Year Data Collection, released by ACT, establishes a baseline for estimating the effect of GEAR UP on low-income students in grades 7-12 by comparing them to similar students not served by the program. The report includes descriptive data and narrative discussions on student background characteristics, baseline academic achievement, educational plans, and self-reported educational needs.

The joint project will allow the partners to link various types of data to show the connection between GEAR UP services aimed and the actual educational outcomes of 120,000 students who use those services across the 14 states in the CCREC: Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

“Each of the 14 CCREC states knows, first hand, the substantial difference GEAR UP has made in the lives of thousands of low-income students seeking post-high school educational opportunity,” said Teena Olszewski, CCREC’s Executive Committee co-chair and Arizona GEAR UP director at Northern Arizona University. “Collectively pooling our data across states is an unprecedented and courageous commitment to the important role and value of rigorous research and evaluation to college access programs generally and GEAR UP programs nationally.”
The data in the first report provided by ACT establish a baseline for comparisons over time by using common benchmarks for college and career readiness over the 14 CCREC states. Future reports will analyze high school and postsecondary educational outcomes.

“We are grateful to ACT and to NCCEP for their partnership and look forward to the continuous lessons and improvements to come in the years ahead with the ongoing benefit of their support and expertise,” Olszewski said.

The first research report and more detailed information about the project scope can be downloaded free from the ACT website at:
# # #
About ACT
ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as the nation’s leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality achievement assessments grounded in more than 50 years of research and experience. ACT offers a uniquely integrated continuum of solutions that help people succeed from elementary school through career, providing insights that unlock potential. To learn more about ACT, go to
Ed Colby
ACT Public Relations

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federal discretionary grant program intended to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The program provides six- or seven-year grants to states and local partnerships to provide services at middle schools and high schools that educate primarily low-income students. GEAR UP has three broad objectives:
• Increase academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education.
• Increase the rate of high school graduation and participation in postsecondary education.
• Increase educational expectations and student and family knowledge of postsecondary educational options, preparation, and financing.
NCCEP is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the fundamental principle that every child deserves an equal chance to obtain a high-quality education. NCCEP establishes community-education partnerships, strengthens research-based college access programs, and develops tools and resources to provide educational opportunities for all students. For more information about NCCEP or GEAR UP, please visit