WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would improve the GEAR UP federal grant program by giving grant recipients increased flexibility to cater to local students’ needs, reducing administrative burdens for grant recipients, and ensuring a more fair and competitive application process. The GEAR Up for Success Act was led by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) and also co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
North Carolina is currently the recipient of five GEAR UP grants:
- Appalachian State University
- $2.7 million per year that covers 9,500 students over 8 school districts in Western North Carolina
- $1.4 million per year that covers 5,150 students over 3 school districts in Western North Carolina
- UNC System Schools
- $4.1 million per year that covers 22,000 students over 11 school districts in rural North Carolina
- Fayetteville State University
- $1.2 million per year that covers 1,500 students in 4 middle schools and 4 high schools
- Iredell-Statesville Schools
- $1 million per year that covers 1,700 students in 5 middle schools
“The GEAR Up initiative is important for low-income and underrepresented students to become aware of their college opportunities,” said Senator Tillis. “North Carolina has a large GEAR UP footprint that has a proven record of success, and I hope we can pass this legislation to allow those in need to have the opportunity for higher education.”
“Our local schools should be able to use grants to cater specifically to their students’ needs,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This legislation will bring even greater local control in the GEAR UP program, from which many students in Texas have already benefited. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure students don’t fall behind, improve college completion rates, and ensure decisions rest with those who know our students best.”
“Preparing students to pursue higher education is necessary if we as a nation are to have a civilly engaged, world changing generation of citizens,” Sen. Manchin said. “During the 2017-18 academic year, West Virginia GEAR UP students spent more than 39,000 hours engaged in activities that promote academic achievement, career exploration, college awareness and ultimately increased participation in postsecondary education. I am proud to introduce this measure and am excited to see how these West Virginians and Americans will shape our world into an even better one than we already have.”
“GEAR UP and its strong network of colleges, high schools, and middle schools help young people develop the confidence to take advantage of the opportunities awaiting them,” said Sen. Collins. “GEAR UP serves thousands of Maine students in more than 50 schools across the state, providing individuals with the resources they need to further their education. I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to reauthorize this important program.”
Representatives Will Hurd (R-TX-23) and Susan Davis (D-CA-53) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The GEAR Up for Success Act would amend the Higher Education Opportunity Act to:
- Give school districts and other local entities increased flexibility to design programs to address local needs;
- Empower state and local leadership on the GEAR UP scholarship component;
- Improve GEAR UP research and evaluation at the local and national levels;
- Reduce administrative burdens for GEAR UP grantees; and
- Close loopholes to ensure a fair and competitive application process.
The GEAR UP Program is a competitive grant program that helps low-income and historically underrepresented students achieve college and career readiness, improve high school graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment rates, and raise awareness of postsecondary options among student and families. GEAR UP engages students early, accelerates their readiness through supplemental programs, and expands the capacity of schools to create “college going” cultures.
Nationally, GEAR UP outcomes have shown positive student gains for participating students. GEAR UP students graduate from high school at a higher rate than their peers – regardless of ethnicity or income – and attend college at a higher rate.