More than 200 higher education leaders and public school educators gathered today to learn about preparing students for college during the 2007 Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) College Access Conference.
Hosted by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the conference is designed to help participants learn innovative approaches to increase college access and to showcase best practices in preparing students for college.
During the luncheon address, Chancellor Glen D. Johnson shared his vision for GEAR UP and the need for continued success in preparing students for college.
“Programs that foster interest in college have been paying off and enrollments continue near record highs. However, we must not only continue, but strengthen our efforts to retain and graduate Oklahoma college students at a higher rate,” Johnson said. “We can do this by persistence and dedication in preparing students academically, socially and financially before they enter college. I encourage all educators to use creative and innovative methods to teach our students. We need more students to think critically and to have well-developed skills in math, science, English and technology.”
Conference concurrent sessions covered a variety of issues designed to build best practices for preparing students for college. Topics included: the impact of engaging business and community leaders in an aggressive statewide education initiative; how GEAR UP activities and partnerships have assisted in increasing the number of students who are successful in their postsecondary endeavors; and how student satisfaction with the high school experience can have a significant relationship on student preparation for college and success in college.
Other sessions featured ideas on how school districts can sustain GEAR UP programs and college preparation activities after grant money is depleted; a futuristic look at the work world as it will be in 10 to 20 years; the basics of fundraising; and information from the U.S. Department of Education specific to partnership grant directors.
GEAR UP, a federal program administered by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, is designed to help middle and high school students better prepare for college. The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with a state GEAR UP grant totaling $20.5 million in August 1999. In 2005, Oklahoma received a six-year, $20.6 million state GEAR UP grant to continue much-needed information and services that help students and their families better prepare for college. The grants have been matched by more than $47 million from state and partner resources. With the addition of the 2005 multi-year, federal grant, Oklahoma's GEAR UP program will ultimately receive more than $45.6 million in federal funds by 2011. GEAR UP receives 49 percent of total funding from the federal government and 51 percent from other organizations.
GEAR UP has helped Oklahoma schools move aggressively in expanding the range of programs and services offered to upper elementary, middle and high school students to better prepare them for college by focusing on two broad college access components: scholarship funding and early intervention initiatives.
GEAR UP provides resources to school districts and comprehensive professional development services to Oklahoma teachers, counselors and administrators. Additionally, GEAR UP continues to reach fifth- through 12th-grade students through targeted efforts designed to better inform and prepare students for college.
“Oklahoma higher education remains committed to augmenting K-12 schools' efforts to educate and produce students who are ready for college,” said State Regents Chairman John Massey. “Through GEAR UP and partnerships with businesses and communities, we can reach more students through innovative methods and help them realize their educational dreams.”