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Deadline: July 7, 2014

U.S. Department of Education: GEAR UP

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a discretionary grant program that provides funding for academic and related support services to eligible low-income students, including students with disabilities, to help them obtain a secondary school diploma and to prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. Services must include providing financial aid information, encouraging enrollment in challenging coursework in order to reduce the need for remediation at the postsecondary level, and implementing activities to improve the number of students who obtain a high school diploma and complete applications for and enroll in a program of postsecondary education. GEAR UP funds may also be used to provide a number of additional support services such as mentoring, tutoring, academic and career counseling, and exposure to college campuses.

n FY14, this program has two competitive preference priorities and one invitational priority. The competitive preference priorities are:

  • Increasing Postsecondary Success: The Department of Education is using Competitive Preference Priority 1 to focus on increasing readiness for success once students reach the postsecondary level. The Department believes that GEAR UP projects can play a strong role in improving the postsecondary outcomes of their participants by placing a greater emphasis in two areas: College fit, and College readiness at the postsecondary level: (a) The concept of college fit combines traditional approaches to college advising, such as assistance with test preparation, research, admissions applications, and financial aid applications, with strategies to improve college selection so that students are more aware of and likely to seriously consider or choose institutions that are a good ‘‘fit’’ with their qualifications, academic and career interests, and financial, personal, and social needs. College fit builds on the body of research on ‘‘under matching,’’ which demonstrates that students are more likely to complete college when they attend the most academically demanding institution that will admit them. (b) GEAR UP grantees can improve college readiness by identifying at an early age students likely to be referred to remediation at the postsecondary level and by engaging in strategies to address their needs at the secondary level to make taking such courses in college unnecessary.
  • Promise Zones: The Department is using Competitive Preference Priority 2 in order to combine the work of GEAR UP with other Federal anti-poverty programs in federally designated ‘‘Promise Zones.’’ The President has announced an initiative to designate, over the next 4 years, 20 high-poverty communities as Promise Zones where the Federal government will partner with, and invest in, communities to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, and improve public safety. Co-led by the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Agriculture, and Justice, Promise Zones are part of the President’s Ladders of Opportunity plan to ensure that hard-working Americans make it to the middle class. Promise Zones will align the work of multiple Federal programs in high-poverty urban, rural, and tribal communities that have both substantial needs and a strong, evidence-based plan to address them. The five primary goals of Promise Zones are creating jobs, increasing economic activity, improving educational opportunities, reducing violent crime, and leveraging private investment. The initiative builds on lessons learned from existing place-based programs, such as the Department’s Promise Neighborhoods program. Fact sheet on Promise Zones: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/08/fact-sheet-president-obama-s-promise-zones-initiative.

The invitational priority in FY14 is:

  • Development of Non-Cognitive Skills: An emerging body of research suggests that non-cognitive skills and behaviors play an important role in students’ academic, career, and life outcomes. The development of these skills is especially critical during the middle school years as students face new academic challenges, social comparisons, and stereotypes regarding their potential for success. How students negotiate these changes has major implications for their academic futures. Projects under this priority should include strategies to improve students’ non-cognitive skills and behaviors, including academic mindset, perseverance, motivation, and mastery of social and emotional skills that improve student success.

Amount: 21 awards are expected to range from $100,000-$7,000,000 each. A 50% cash or in-kind match is required.

Eligibility: Partnerships consisting of (a) one or more local educational agencies (LEA), and (b) one or more degree granting institutions of higher education (IHE). Partnerships may also contain not less than two other community organizations or entities, such as businesses, professional organizations, State agencies, institutions or agencies sponsoring programs authorized under the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Program, or other public or private agencies or organizations.


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