What is GEAR UP

GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Education.  GEAR UP provides federal funding for 213 state and partnership grants serving over 748,000 low-income students in 48 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Palau, and Puerto Rico. The goal of the program is to significantly increase the number of low-income middle and high school students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. 

GEAR UP provides both State and partnership grants. Through a competitive process, awardees receive six or seven year grants to provide services designed to raise the expectations of low-income students and families and to increase college attendance and success.


The California GEAR UP program, sponsored by the California Education Round Table at the Governor's request, is administered by the University of California.  Funded for its third six-year cycle on October 1, 2011, the program goal is to: Develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare ALL students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults -- counselors, faculty, school leaders and families -- who influence middle school students. All program services are geared towards sustainability, such that school change can be successful beyond the life of the grant cycle. 

Download the California GEAR UP inforgraphic for more info.

The three models of California GEAR UP success:

A Bridge for Students Model:  Working collaboratively with five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school in the Elk Grove Unified School District, the Bridge Project serves a cohort of students, beginning in 7th grade.  Student success is promoted through a combination of academic support, professional development opportunities and family programming, to encourage and build a college going culture throughout their middle and high school experience.  By 2017, the primary project outcome is To Increase by 20 Percent the Number of Bridge Students Achieving at Grade-Appropriate Levels in Mathematics as Compared to the Respective 2010-11 Class at the School.

A Whole School SERVICES Model: Services are provided to a cohort of 48 middle schools throughout California, focused on building a college going culture and whole school change. GEAR UP staff and a contingent of program partners work in collaboration with district, community and school leaders, teachers, administrators, counselors and families to foster a sustainable college-going culture throughout the school community.  Partner professional services complement GEAR UP professional development tools including the SSAR, PDAP, and perceptions tool,  designed to support student success in transitioning from middle to high school and higher education.  By 2017, the primary outcome of this model is: To Increase by Five Percent Each Year the Number of Students at the Participating GEAR UP Schools who are Performing at Grade-Appropriate Levels in Mathematics as Compared to the Performance of Students at these Schools in the 2010-11 Year.

An Educational System Transformation Model:  As a state grant, the GEAR UP program mandate is to influence the middle school reform movement throughout California.  Since 1999, 256 schools have been served by California GEAR UP, representing 1/5 of the total middle schools in our state.  This model expands the program's reach in promoting a college-going culture for all students in the state through the offering of resources, materials, information, and events to impact the educational enterprise as a whole.  By 2017, the Educational System Transformation model seeks to:  Increase by To Increase by Five Percent in Six Years the Number of Students in the State Completing Grade- Appropriate Mathematics Courses as Compared to 2010-11 Statewide Outcomes.


Since 1999, the California GEAR UP Program has impacted:

  • 256 middle schools across half the state's counties in which at least 51 percent of the students are eligible for the free- or reduced-lunch program in order to develop a college-going culture;
  • 440,000 middle school students who have benefited from program services;
  • Approximately 2,100 middle school educators -- teachers, administrators, and counselors -- who have participated in professional development activities designed to support school leadership,improve classroom practice and enhance academic rigor at their schools;
  • 51,000 families of middle school students who have learned strategies for partnering with schools to support their children throughout their educational journey; and,
  • 5,370 middle school students who had Education Trust Awards accounts established in their names through ScholarShare -- the state's college savings program -- in the amount of $2,000, for a total of $10,740,000. Once enrolled in college, the student can withdraw funds from his/her account to pay for college expenses
  • 1999-2017 California GEAR UP: approximately $81million dollars and more than $162 million dollars in dollar-to-dollar matching funds.  


  • That ALL students deserve an equitable education – one that provides the knowledge and skills to choose and be successful in postsecondary education pursuits;
  • That students must master rigorous academic standards to successfully progress along the pipleline from middle school to high school and into and through college;
  • That in order for students to plan for college they need to see themselves in college;
  • That overcoming the challenges faced by low-income, first-generation college-bound students requires the continued engagement of school leaders, families and communities.

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