Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs

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Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs ("GEAR UP") is a federal grant program administered by the United States Department of Education. It was established in Chapter 2 of the 1998 amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 which awarded financial assistance to students and colleges from the federal government.[1] GEAR UP was authored by Congressman Chaka Fattah and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in October, 1998.

Early Intervention and College Awareness Program[edit]

The GEAR UP chapter focuses heavily on the Early Intervention and College Awareness Program. This program provides a guarantee of financial aid to low-income students who have obtained a secondary diploma or its equivalent.[2] The program was also designed to aid students in elementary and high school to be aware of the benefits of higher education, and to reach the educational level necessary to attend an institute of higher education. Institutions eligible for grant money include states, partnerships between middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, and community organizations and businesses. The grant also stipulates that at least 50% of the participants must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, or are at or below 150% of the Federal poverty level.[3] Each entity devises its own plan, submits the plan to the Secretary of Education, and evaluates the plan on a biennial basis. The submitted plan must describe the activities to be implemented and provide the necessary assurances that the grant money will be matched by the entity; Other existing programs will not be undermined by the new plan or any of the conclusive evaluation results. Eligible entities must implement the plan so it impacts students for the first time no later than their seventh grade year, therefore many programs are initiated in middle schools and extended to the associated high school.[4]

Entities receiving grant money are given a fair amount of autonomy. Each plan is devised and implemented independent of other entities. However, each plan must include comprehensive mentoring, counseling, outreach, and supportive services, including financial aid counseling, providing information and activities regarding college admissions, achievement tests, and application procedures, and improving parental involvement.[5] Funds can support identification of at-risk children, after school and summer tutoring, assistance in obtaining summer jobs, academic counseling, volunteer and parent involvement, providing former or current scholarship recipients as mentor or peer counselors, skills assessment, providing access to rigorous core courses that reflect challenging academic standards, personal counseling, family counseling and home visits, staff development, programs for students of limited English proficiency, and summer programs for remedial, developmental or supportive purposes.

For students who successfully complete the middle school and high school programs, there are scholarships available. In order to be eligible for this students must be less than 22 years of age and have participated in the early intervention component of the program.[6] Not more than 10% of the students from a secondary school can be eligible, in a process requiring application and dependent in part on class rank. These students must attend in-state higher education institutes, unless the college or university provides for portability of funding. If so, students are required to complete a prescribed set of courses and maintain satisfactory progress. The scholarships provided must be no less than 75% of the average cost of attendance for an in-state student in a four-year program at a public institution, and no less than the maximum Federal Pell Grant for that fiscal year. However, the total award to any one student cannot exceed that student's cost of attending the school.

The program also allows a small percentage, only 0.75% to be used in assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of an entity's plan. When the program was passed in 1998, $200 million was appropriated for the following fiscal year, and for five years after. Since the passing of the bill, this program has been met with general approval.[7] It was particularly successful in Connecticut. However, because each entity designs and implements unique plans, the results of the GEAR UP program have been varied.

Chicago GEAR UP Alliance[edit]

The Chicago GEAR UP Alliance has been in existence since 1999, and since then has been operating out of the Center for College Access and Success.[8]The fiscal institution for the Chicago GEAR UP Alliance is Northeastern Illinois University,[9] and they partner with many local higher education institutions such as Roosevelt University, DePaul University, Loyola University, Truman College, while also partnering with community based organizations such as Heartland Alliance, Youth Guidance, and New Concepts Mentor Connection.[10] The Chicago GEAR UP Alliance works with the Chicago Public Schools to combine resources, knowledge, and experience to implement their plan within the Chicago Public School System. The last graduating class for the Chicago GEAR UP Alliance was the class of 2011, which featured 65% of students enroll in college, 95% of students complete the FAFSA, received over $30 million in scholarship awards, and out of the 24 Gates Foundation Scholarship award winners, 12 of them were GEAR UP students. The class of 2011 also saw more than 80% of the students graduate high school, and of the 65% of students who enrolled in college, 64% of those students continued their college careers beyond their first year. [11][9]

One of the staples of the Chicago GEAR UP Alliance is the "Freshman Connection" program. The Freshman Connection program has been directly associate with a 5.4% increase in student on-track stauts and a 4% increase in student passing algebra rate. When comparing non-GEAR UP students with GEAR UP students at the end of their freshman year in high school, the students who participated in Freshman Connection were 6% more likely to graduate on time, and 6% more likely to stay in college beyond their first year. [9]

On September 22, 2014, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, announced that there will be $82 million given to 41 different grants across the country. Of these 41 grants, Northeastern Illinois University will receive the largest, totaling $40 million over a span of 7 years. This money will reach 14 high schools and 36 elementary and middle schools in the Chicago Public School system. [12][13]

Currently, the Chicago GEAR UP Alliance operates within these high schools for the classes of:

2016 and 2017: Clark, Clemente, Curie, Foreman, Harlan, Kelly, and Roosevelt High School.

2017 and 2018: Bogan, Corliss, Douglass, Dunbar, Farragut, Foreman, Hancock, Harlan, Hope, Hubbard, Hyde Park, Julian, Kelvyn Park, Little Village, Manley, Raby, Robeson, Roosevelt, Senn, Solorio, Spry Community Links, Engelwood Technical Prep Academy, Uplift, and Well Community Academy.

2020 and 2021: Bogan, Farragut, Foreman, Goode, Harlan, Hubbard, Julian, Kelly, Morgan Park, Robeson, Roosevelt, Senn, Solorio, and Engelwood Technical Prep Academy. [14]

Other programs[edit]

Other programs amended include:

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
  • Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program - including creation of the Special Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program
  • Special programs for students whose families are involved in migrant and seasonal farmwork
  • The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program - $45 million appropriated for fiscal year 1999
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School - supporting campus-based child care at secondary schools
  • Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships - a project for technology-based education outside of a traditional setting
  • Federal Family Education Loan Program
  • Federal Student Loan Reserve Fund


  1. ^ "HR6 in the 105th Congress". 
  2. ^ Watt, K., Huerta, J., Lozano, A. (2007). "A comparison study of AVID and GEAR UP 10th-grade students in two high schools in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas." Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk. 12(2). 185-212. doi:1080/10824660701261136.x.
  3. ^ Watt, K., Huerta, J., Lozano, A. (2007). "A comparison study of AVID and GEAR UP 10th-grade students in two high schools in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas." Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk. 12(2). 185-212. doi:1080/10824660701261136.x.
  4. ^ Ward, N.L. (2006). "Improving equity and access for low-income and minority youth into institutions of higher education" (PDF). Urban Education. 41 (1): 50–70. doi:10.1177/0042085905282253. 
  5. ^ U.S. Department of Education. "1998 Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 P.L. 105-244". 
  6. ^ U.S. Department of Education. "1998 Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 P.L. 105-244". 
  7. ^ Ward, N. L. (1 January 2006). "Improving Equity and Access for Low-Income and Minority Youth Into Institutions of Higher Education" (PDF). Urban Education. 41 (1): 50–70. doi:10.1177/0042085905282253. 
  8. ^ ". : CTC: GEAR UP : .". Retrieved 2016-05-11. 
  9. ^ a b c Stack, Wendy (February 3, 2016). "Skill Building Seminar: Keeping Students on Track in Chicago" (PDF). NCCEP/GEAR UP Capacity-Building Workshop. Retrieved May 9, 2016. 
  10. ^ "GEAR UP Chicago". GEAR UP. Retrieved 2016-05-11. 
  11. ^ "GEAR UP". GEAR UP. Retrieved 2016-05-11. 
  12. ^ "New GEAR UP Grants Awarded to Help More than 116,000 Students Get on the Pathway for Success in College | U.S. Department of Education". Retrieved 2016-05-11. 
  13. ^ "Northeastern Illinois University receives largest GEAR UP partnership grant in the U.S. | College of Graduate Studies and Research". Retrieved 2016-05-11. 
  14. ^ "GEAR UP Chicago". GEAR UP. Retrieved 2016-05-11.