The University of California announced today (Oct. 4) that it has received a seven-year grant to continue administering a federally funded academic preparation program that improves educational outcomes for low-income students in under-resourced California middle schools. 

The seven-year, $24.5 million grant for GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, represents the fourth such U.S. Department of Education grant awarded to California since GEAR UP’s inception in 1999, and will ensure that the program is funded through 2024.

UC will administer the new grant at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown and on behalf of the state’s three public higher education segments, as well as the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU).

With this grant, California will have received more than $100 million in federal dollars, which have been matched by UC and its partners, to focus on the critical role that middle schools play in preparing students for college. 

“We are pleased to administer this grant on behalf of the California Department of Education and our higher education partners,” said Yvette Gullatt, UC’s vice provost and chief outreach officer. “GEAR UP is an integral part of the matrix of UC programs that seek to prepare low-income students of diverse backgrounds to become eligible and competitive for college.”

While most of UC’s academic preparation programs — such as the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP), The PUENTE Project, Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) and others — work directly with students to raise their overall achievement levels and prepare them for college, GEAR UP focuses on working with middle school counselors, teachers, administrators, families and students to change the overall culture of schools and foster a college-going environment.

“GEAR UP compliments the university’s ongoing academic pipeline initiatives that have helped us diversify UC’s student body,” said Penny Edgert, principal investigator for GEAR UP. “The exceptional work GEAR UP does in sustainably transforming the entire culture of middle schools in California serves not only UC, but the outreach efforts of all higher education in the state.”

Since its beginnings in 1999, GEAR UP has positively impacted hundreds of middle schools throughout California. Some of the most notable accomplishments include:

  • Serving 304 low-income middle schools across half of the state’s counties
  • Providing professional development to more than 2,500 middle school educators
  • Directly benefiting 440,000 middle school students
  • Helping 55,000 families of middle school students partner with schools to support their children
  • Establishing $2,000 educational trust accounts for 5,607 middle school students through ScholarShare to help fund their college education

GEAR UP is part of UC’s Student Academic Preparation and Educational Partnerships (SAPEP) portfolio, which comprises programs and services intended to raise student achievement levels and close the achievement gaps among targeted groups of students throughout the California educational pipeline. More specifically, UC’s SAPEP programs seek to ensure that participants complete their college preparatory (“a-g”) courses in high school, graduate fully prepared to enter four-year colleges, and are prepared to transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions. The University of California continues to be a strong supporter of GEAR UP and urges Congress to provide strong and sustained funding for this important program.