Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a grant program that Congress funds to better prepare low-income and first-generation students for postsecondary education and increase the number of postsecondary students from these backgrounds. The Department of Education awards 6-year grants to either state governments or partnerships of school districts (local educational agencies, or LEAs), institutions of higher education, and community organizations.
Whereas the federal TRIO programs are based on voluntary participation of individual students, GEAR UP utilizes a cohort model, targeting entire grades of students. All students in a given grade level at a school in which a GEAR UP recipient operates receive pipeline services – mentoring, tutoring, college and financial aid counseling, and other forms of outreach – from middle school through graduation.
States can receive a maximum award of $5 million annually; partnership grant awards are distributed at a maximum level of $800 per participating student. Additionally, all applicants are required to secure matching funds for at least half of the total project costs. Project periods cannot exceed seven years.