Oklahoma's Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is forging into year six with aggressive plans to help even more students and families better prepare for college.
GEAR UP recently received an additional $4.45 million in federal funds to continue college awareness and preparation activities around the state in 2004-05.
“The additional funding for GEAR UP is an acknowledgment from our national leaders that Oklahoma is making great progress in preparing our students for college,” said Chancellor Paul Risser.
“In just five years, we can see that GEAR UP efforts are helping more Oklahoma students prepare for college, earn scholarships to college and enroll in college,” Risser added. “The U.S. Department of Education, Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and national policymakers are to be commended for their commitment to funding GEAR UP because it has meant that more students and families can realize their dream of earning a college degree.”
In August 1999, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma a five-year grant totaling $20.5 million to implement GEAR UP activities statewide. The grant was matched by more than $25 million in state and partner resources to help expand GEAR UP efforts into local areas. With the addition of year six funding, Oklahoma's state GEAR UP program has received approximately $25 million in federal funds since 1999.
Oklahoma GEAR UP has three primary components: college readiness, scholarship funding and statewide awareness. 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 built around an existing scholarship program – the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP). The program targets students statewide in the eighth, ninth and 10th grades who commit to taking a rigorous academic core curriculum that will prepare them for success in college. The characteristics of OHLAP make it an ideal foundation program for GEAR UP's scholarship component. GEAR UP outreach efforts have helped boost enrollment in OHLAP considerably over the last five 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 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.
“Oklahoma GEAR UP has accomplished great things in its first five years,” said Risser. “But we still must do more to increase the number of Oklahomans with college degrees. By doing so, we improve the economy of our state and the quality of life for all Oklahomans.”
In 2004-05, 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, and for the first time, students can share their unique college preparation stories in an essay contest to earn prizes and scholarships.
GEAR UP will also continue to work the Oklahoma Guaranteed Student Loan Program to promote financial aid opportunities for students and their families through programs like College Goal SundaySM and “Cash for College” that allow individuals to get immediate answers to their financial aid questions. GEAR UP will continue to educate students on resources available so they understand that college is affordable for every family.
In addition to the 2004-05 funding for the state GEAR UP program, the following Oklahoma GEAR UP partnership grants have also received resources for year six: Checotah Public Schools, $207,082; East Central University, Ada, $297,000; Jay Public Schools, $212,949; Locust Grove Public Schools, $223,507; Miami Public Schools, $123,780; Muskogee Public Schools, $426,403; Oklahoma City Public Schools, $2,954,804; Stilwell Public Schools, $330,056; Tahlequah Public Schools, $246,926; and Tulsa Public Schools, $317,817.
For more information on GEAR UP or any of the programs offered through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, visit www.okhighered.org or call 800.858.1840.