Created by Congress in 1998, GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federal grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. GEAR UP provides six- and seven-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services to studens and families at high-poverty middle and high schools. This federal program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Washington was awarded its third consecutive state GEAR UP grant in September 2011. The six-year, $27 million award provides direct services to over 8,000 students in 27 high-poverty school districts statewide. With the dollar-for-dollar matching contribution required of GEAR UP programs, the total value of services to our state is $54 million dollars.                 

In addition to the state program, Washington is home to six individually funded partnership programs. These seven programs total over $24 million annually and serve nearly 32,500 students in 75 low-income school districts statewide.

GEAR UP's Three Objectives:

1. Increase academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education.
2. Increase high school graduation and postsecondary participation rates.
3. Increase students’ and their families’ knowledge of postsecondary options, preparation, and finances.

State Support

In 2007, Washington became the first state in the country to have state-funded support for the GEAR UP program. The state Legislature went on to approve $2.5 million for the 2011-13 biennium. This funding—combined with other private, partner, and school district resources—helps the state to meet the federal GEAR UP grant’s required dollar-for-dollar cost share. 

Benefits to Students

In the 2011 to 2017 grant cycle, some notable outcomes include:

1. All GEAR UP students have the opportunity to take the ACT EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT college readiness assessments at no cost.

2. 72 percent of students in the Class of 2013 completed the FAFSA.

3. 56 percent of students in the Class of 2013 completed an average of three college applications each as part of the College Application Campaign.

4. In the 2013-14 school year:

  • Almost 4,000 students participated in an average of 63 hours of tutoring or homework support.
  • Over 6,700 students averaged almost 19 hours of GEAR UP provided counseling, advising, academic planning, and career counseling activities that they would not have received otherwise.
  • Approximately 2,100 students participated in an average of 26 hours of mentoring activities by GEAR UP.
  • 70 percent of 9th graders passed Algebra I. 

Learn more about GEAR UP at