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CPE wins $24.5 million state grant to boost high school completions, postsecondary opportunities for low-income students

Gov. Matt Bevin and the Council on Postsecondary Education announced that Kentucky has won a $24.5 million GEAR UP grant to increase the number of low-income students graduating from high school and enrolling in college or workforce training programs.

Kentucky is one of only six states to receive GEAR UP funding from the U.S. Department of Education in this year’s competition, making it the Council’s fourth GEAR UP award.

The federal funds are matched dollar-for-dollar by local, state and national partnerships for a total impact of $49 million over the seven-year funding cycle.

“Today’s announcement is exciting news for current students and their families, as well as for the Commonwealth’s future workforce,” said Gov. Matt Bevin, who endorsed the GEAR UP Kentucky application and sent a letter of support. “By providing early exploration of careers and skill sets, students will make more informed decisions about their education and career after high school. A chief aim of our administration is to empower each and every Kentuckian to have the best possible opportunity for success.”

The program will serve a minimum of 10,000 students in middle and high schools in at least 10 school districts. For the first time, the grant will offer support services for students through their first year of college.

The Council will announce the participating school districts later this month. Direct student services will begin in 2019.

 “GEAR UP focuses on identifying and closing achievement gaps of low-income, underrepresented and underprepared students, so this is exactly the right program at exactly the right time for Kentucky,” said Aaron Thompson, the Council’s executive vice president and chief academic officer, who also serves as grant lead.

GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, provides three categories of services to boost student success: direct services for students and parents, school support services, and state and community services.

The program seeks to increase academic performance and college preparation, high school graduation and participation in college, and student and family knowledge of options, preparation and financing.

The Council’s earlier GEAR UP state awards were $10 million, $21 million and $26.9 million.

In addition to the state award, Kentucky received three of the 55 partnership grants awarded nationally; one at the Western Kentucky Educational Cooperative and two at Berea College.

GEAR UP delivers college access and readiness services in schools that serve a majority of low-income students. The program helps students achieve at or above grade level standards, understand the college admissions process, and graduate from high school prepared for college coursework. Nationally, GEAR UP students apply and enroll in postsecondary education at a higher rate than their peers.

Thompson, who also serves as the board chair for the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, commented that the timing of the funding announcement was fitting as it coincided with the last day of National GEAR UP Week, an annual celebration when partners and participants celebrate the impact of the GEAR UP program.

“We have worked hard to develop the right balance of services, identify the best partners and engage the ideal school systems. The strength of our proposal was in the partnerships, and we are very grateful for all of those who contributed to making this happen,” added Thompson.

Key partnerships for the GEAR UP Kentucky program include Kentucky Broadcasters’ Association, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, Texas Instruments, Kentucky postsecondary institutions, the Kentucky Department of Education, ePrep – College Equipped Readiness Assessment (CERT), National Council for Community and Education Partnerships and the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning.

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The Council on Postsecondary Education is leading efforts to get more Kentuckians more highly educated. By 2030, at least 60 percent of working-age adults in Kentucky will need to have earned a postsecondary education degree or credential to meet expected workforce demands.

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