Oklahoma will be able to continue to provide much-needed information and services that help students and their families better prepare for college thanks to a second award of multi-year GEAR UP funding, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced today.
The GEAR UP grant will provide Oklahoma approximately $3.5 million in the first year and a projected $20.6 million over six years, to continue and expand the statewide college preparation activities that were started in 1999 with the initial federal grant.
“I am very pleased that these funds are being awarded to Oklahoma to help low-income students obtain a higher education,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Cole. “I have been working in Congress to ensure that this program is not compromised. Oklahoma has successfully utilized GEAR UP to meet the needs of students across our state. From the personal stories I have heard from university presidents, administrators and faculty, it is evident that these programs are a wise investment in the future of our state.”
GEAR UP, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a federal program designed to help middle and high school students better prepare for college. In August 1999, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma a five-year grant totaling $20.5 million to implement GEAR UP activities across the state, including college preparation activities, scholarship opportunities and public awareness programs for students and families.
In 2004, Oklahoma received an additional $4.4 million federal grant to continue GEAR UP for a sixth year. The initial grant and year six funding were matched by more than $25 million in state and partner resources to help expand GEAR UP efforts into local areas. Since 1999, and with the addition of new grant funds, Oklahoma will ultimately receive more than $45.6 million in federal GEAR UP funds by the year 2011.
“We are very pleased with the news forwarded to us by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn announcing the grant award,” said Chancellor Paul G. Risser. “Our state’s congressional delegation and leadership in Washington, D.C. should be commended for their commitment to funding GEAR UP, a valuable program that exemplifies what can happen when state and federal resources work together to benefit students.”
Boosting the federal grant money is more than $22.6 million in committed partner resources to continue expansion of Oklahoma GEAR UP activities over the next six years. Partners include aha! Process Inc., USA Today, ACT Inc., The College Board, Thinking Maps, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Northeastern State University, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Tulsa Community College.
GEAR UP has aggressive plans to help even more students and families better prepare for college over the next six years through three primary components: academic readiness, college access information and scholarship funding. Each component is designed to meet specific needs, including the need to remove financial barriers to college, the need to provide accurate information about postsecondary options, and the need for academic preparation, social support and guidance for college.
The scholarship funding component of GEAR UP is Oklahoma’s existing scholarship program – the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) – Oklahoma’s Promise. The statewide program targets students with an annual family income of $50,000 or less in the eighth, ninth and 10th grades who commit to taking a rigorous academic core curriculum that will prepare them for success in college.
OHLAP’s characteristics make it an ideal program for GEAR UP's scholarship component. While other states must commit part of their GEAR UP grant to fund student scholarships, Oklahoma’s OHLAP is state-supported, meaning federal grant funds from GEAR UP can be used primarily for outreach and awareness efforts that also help boost enrollment in OHLAP. As a result, more students realize that college is possible, both academically and financially. GEAR UP has helped boost OHLAP enrollment considerably over the last six years, especially in rural areas.
Oklahoma GEAR UP is recognized nationally for its comprehensive public awareness component. Aimed at fifth- through 12th-grade students and their parents, GEAR UP provides, in both English and Spanish languages, Web sites for parents and students, enhanced resources for teachers and guidance counselors, instructional videos, teacher guides, student activity booklets and college readiness information for the general public.
“GEAR UP will continue to focus on meeting the project’s objectives to ensure that every student in Oklahoma receives the academic preparation, social support and guidance necessary to succeed in college and the workforce. Additional efforts to improve academic proficiency, especially in the areas of math and science, will be enhanced,” said State Regents Chairman Cheryl Hunter.
Specifically, GEAR UP will continue its focus on:
For more information on GEAR UP, visit www.okhighered.org/gearup or call 800.858.1840.