ASU gets $7 million GEAR UP grant for college prep resources

The road to college just got a little easier for some Arizona students. Through a newly gifted $7 million grant to Arizona State University, students and their families have greater access to gaining a college education.

ASU’s downtown campus, one of 55 educational institutions receiving a U.S. Department of Education State and Partnership GEAR UP award, will be given yearly grants of $1 million from now through 2024. The money will be used to partner up with local K-12 schools to provide more resources to prepare kids for college earlier in their education.

GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, regularly partners up with local schools, higher education institutions, state agencies and community organizations to provide federally funded grant money for their college prep programs. GEAR UP also puts a focus on increasing graduation rates in schools while educating students and their families about options after high school, as well as providing info about financing and budgeting.

“Preparation for college should start early and needs to involve the family,” says Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services and principal investigator of the new GEAR UP grant. “Students and families need early exposure to the resources needed to chart a course to higher education.”

The GEAR UP grants were awarded to educational institutions involved in a nationwide competition. ASU has been beefing up its efforts to provide access to college prep resources in the state, and the grant will only help to continue that effort. Leaders at ASU involved in the program will be initiating a more hands-on approach to ferrying students in junior high and high school to college.

One way the grant money will be used over the next seven years is to enroll about 1,250 students per year with the money, beginning with seventh grade students from local partner districts and target schools. The hope is that the partnership will offer intensive academic support to assist the students to complete their college degree successfully.

“Too often, conversations about college start with students Junior, or even Senior year of high school,” adds Symonds. “GEAR UP will help ensure that students and families get critical and timely information about what courses they need to take to be college-ready, financial aid, summer programs and other resources beginning in 7th grade.”

English, math and science are just some of the educational program tracks that students will be on while receiving dedicated support. GEAR UP will provide the tutoring and mentoring needed to keep students on track to completing their high schools courses and carry them through to their first year in college. What’s more, GEAR UP will also provide the help needed for family engagement, summer experiences and college visits.

Districts participating in the GEAR UP grant program include Tempe Elementary, Tempe Union, Mesa Public Schools, Pendergast Elementary, Tolleson Elementary, Tolleson Union, Glendale Elementary, Washington Elementary and Glendale Union. There are also various other community partners, such as APS, MidFirst Bank, and Glendale Community College, that are helping.

“GEAR UP will also help Arizona continue to advance our Achieve 60 goals: to have 60% of Arizonans have a certificate or degree by 2030. Increasing postsecondary attainment will ensure that Arizona has the workforce needed to advance economic prosperity in our state,” notes Symonds.

Nick Esquer

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