Purpose: GEAR UP is a discretionary grant program from the U.S. Department of Education designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
What GEAR UP stands for: GEAR UP is an acronym which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. GEAR UP should always be in all caps.
Background: The GEAR UP initiative was authorized by Title IV of the 1998 Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) and was signed into public law (P.L.105-244) on September 29, 1998 by President Clinton. The first GEAR UP grants were awarded in 1999.
National Council for Education Partnerships (NCCEP): Our voice in Washington as well as the group officially charged with providing technical assistance to GEAR UP grantees at the Capacity Building and National GEAR UP conferences.
State grant: State grants are competitive six or seven-year matching grants that must include both an early intervention component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students and a scholarship component. States can request a waiver of the scholarship requirement. Each state can have only one state grant and budgets are generally no more than $3 million, half of which is usually scholarships. Oregon GEAR UP is a state grant.
Partnership grant: Partnership grants are competitive six or seven-year matching grants that must support an early intervention component and may support a scholarship component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students. Each state can have multiple partnership grants. Budgets are based upon the number of students serve and can be as much as $800/student. Oregon has two partnership grants, both part of Portland Public Schools.
Cohort: Grantees provide services to at least one grade level of students, beginning not later than 7th grade, in a participating school that has a 7th grade and in which at least 50 percent of the students enrolled are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Or, if an eligible entity determines that it would promote, the effectiveness of its program, an entire grade level of students, beginning not later than the 7th grade, who reside in public housing; and ensure that the services are provided through the 12th grade to students in the participating grade level. New legislation allows grantees to follow students through their first year of college as well. Most Oregon GEAR UP schools use this model.
Priority: For eligible entities not using a cohort approach, the eligible entity shall treat as a priority student any student in secondary school, who is eligible for free/reduced price lunches, homeless, or otherwise considered by the eligible entity to be a disconnected student (defined as limited English proficient students; students with disabilities; homeless students; youth participating in or aging out of foster care; pregnant or parenting teens; youth who have been involved in the juvenile justice system; and other students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.)
Cost share: The total cost of GEAR UP is shared equally by the US Department of Education and the grantee and their partners. In other words, grantees are required to match their total award dollar-for-dollar. Matching contributions can come from any non-federal source and must be carefully documented. Cost share can be in-kind as well as actual contributions. Matching funds can be anything that you could use federal GEAR UP funds to support. Partnerships can ask for a waiver to reduce the match percentage under certain circumstances.
APR: The Annual Performance Report is required by the US Dept. of Education and is due every April 15th (or the nearest weekday). Data collected includes demographics, program participation and academic achievement. In addition, results from surveys of students and parents are required every other year.