DOE Announces GEAR UP Funding

Today, the Department of Education released the FY2011 slate of states and partnerships that will receive funding from the federal GEAR UP program. GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, delivers college access and readiness services to low-income, primarily first generation students for a 6 or 7-year period, starting no later than 7th grade. GEAR UP serves approximately 750,000 students each year, and helps students achieve at or above grade level standards, understand the college admissions process including financial aid, and graduate high school prepared for college-level coursework. Nationally, GEAR UP students apply and enroll in post-secondary education at a higher rate than their peers.

This announcement is shared by those of us in California with mixed emotions. Welcome to new and returning grantees. To those who will no longer be of service as a GEAR UP grantee, know that we will miss the interaction and dialogue we have shared. We  hope our paths cross as we continue to press on in service to students, families and communities. There is much work to be done.

Sincerely- California GEAR UP

Of the 296 applications submitted in July, 19 states and 47 partnerships received funding. Although, the total number of 2011 awards is down significantly from the number expected, this is a consequence of partnership grants requesting larger sums of funding to serve larger cohorts of students. These GEAR UP grantees will be nurturing the next generation of college graduates, with many focusing on the Department of Education’s broader agenda of working with persistently lowest-achieving schools and developing strategies to use State longitudinal data systems to deliver reliable and comprehensive information on participant outcomes.

The FY11 slate comes on the heels of a $20 million cut to the GEAR UP program, negotiated during the Fiscal Year 2011 budget debate between Congress and the White House. The funding cut will eliminate more than 40,000 low-income students from the program, and many will have no other way to receive the supports they need to put them on track for postsecondary education.

In President Obama’s FY12 budget, he requests a $20 million increase for GEAR UP, restoring the program to the FY10 funding level. The House and Senate markups as of today indicate flat funding for FY12, with no restoration of funding lost in FY11.

GEAR UP Advocates For Families at Becerra Town Hall

A town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) at the New World Open Academy in Koreatown was attended by hundreds of constituents on Tuesday evening, most of whom had questions about the role he would play on a 12-member deficit reduction committee and how he would protect key programs.

Becerra, whose district includes the Los Angeles neighborhoods of East Hollywood, Mount Washington, Highland Park, Echo Park and Eagle Rock, is charged with helping to devise a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit by $1.5 trillion in the next 10 years. These reductions include all discretionary spending programs that could include GEAR UP.

Many constituents asked Becerra to affirm his support of programs such as GEAR UP and TRIO, Medicare and Social Security, while others asked that he not support any plan that would raise taxes.

The town hall was attended by constituents in Becerra’s district who also work for the students and families of GEAR UP programs. The GEAR UP supporters asked the congressman to continue to advocate for programs, such as GEAR UP, that he has always supported. Becerra’s reply was “my voting record speaks for itself.”

For his part, Becerra said he would hold true to his convictions by attempting to protect what he considered invaluable social programs. However, he said in order for compromise to be made, he had to put everything on the table.

“I need to be able to say to [Republicans] that [Social Security] is there on the table. But, before we leave it on the table to find savings, they’re going to need to prove to me why it deserves to be cut,” Becerra said. “I believe I can win that argument.”