Created by Congress in 1998, GEAR UP 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 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 is being used to provide direct services to over 8,000 students in 28 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 ten individually funded partnership programs. These eleven programs total over $23 million annually and serve nearly 35,000 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

For the most recent grant cycle, which served the class of 2011, the following outcomes were documented in an evaluation conducted by the WSU Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC):

  • 100% of GEAR UP students attended information sessions related to college admissions, financing, and scholarship opportunities during their junior year of high school.
  • 97% of GEAR UP students took the ACT or SAT.
  • 98% of GEAR UP students completed the FAFSA.

Learn more about GEAR UP at