Six years ago, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission landed a $16.8 million federal grant to work with a group of seventh-grade students, preparing them for college. Those students in the GEAR UP program are now seniors in high school.
Heather Doe, spokesperson for the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, says GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. “The whole purpose is to hopefully increase the number of low-income, minority, and disadvantaged students in our state who do go on to college and are prepared to go on to college,” Doe says.
This week is designated as National GEAR UP Week. In Iowa, there are roughly 7,000 students in 150 high schools who are participating in the program. Doe says most of them will be applying for college soon and GEAR UP will offer guidance. “Many times, a lot of these students we’re serving don’t have support at home, don’t have family members who’ve gone through the process, and they need a little help along the way,” Doe says.
The grant to Iowa College Aid will expire after this year, but Doe says they hope to land another grant to assist another cohort of students. There’s a scholarship component to the GEAR UP program. Doe says every student in the program who graduates from high school can receive $2,600 a year, for up to four years, to attend college.
An event is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Davenport Central High School to recognize the successes of the GEAR UP Iowa program.