Programs at 10 school districts in Eastern Washington will benefit from a $25 million grant to WSU Tri-Cities.
The university received its seventh seven-year Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare students in low-income schools to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.
The university has been part of the program since 2002.
The money will pay for programs in Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton, Prescott, Touchet, Kennewick, Othello, Warden, Moses Lake and Soap Lake.
The university plans to hire 100 people across the districts to provide assistance to students, so they can attend a college or a university.
Students start in the program during six and seventh grade, and receive assistance throughout high school. The employees act as mentors, helping the students with homework, grammar and other life skills.
To be eligible for the program, 50 percent or more of the students at a school need to be eligible for the free or reduced lunch program.
“(The program) will really make a difference in our communities, especially for first-generation and underrepresented populations,” said Chuck Hallsted, the WSU Tri-Cities GEAR UP director.
The program ending in 2015 led to 25 percent more eighth-grade students passing the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, 29 percent more 10th-grade students passing the High School Proficiency Exam in math, and a 75 percent increase in the students passing the same test for science.