West Virginia awarded $21 million “GEAR UP” college-readiness grant

For immediate release: Monday, September 22, 2014

Jessica Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications
Division of Student Affairs
West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission
(304) 558-0655 (office)
(304) 532-0911 (cell)


West Virginia awarded $21 million “GEAR UP” college-readiness grant

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Students in ten West Virginia counties will have extra help preparing for college and career training programs, thanks to a $21 million grant awarded to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission). The U.S. Department of Education announced today that the Commission will receive a “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” (GEAR UP) grant – its second consecutive GEAR UP award – to support college-planning and readiness services for nearly 17,000 students over the next seven years.

“The GEAR UP program has been recognized nationally as one of the most promising pathways to increasing the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in education and training beyond high school,” Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said. “The grant application process is highly competitive, and West Virginia’s award is a testament to the innovative work that is occurring in our state to ensure that all students have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of earning a college diploma.”

Under this new award, the Commission’s GEAR UP program will continue to stress the importance of earning a trade certificate, two-year degree or four-year degree after high school and provide students with resources to prepare for and succeed in college. The program will offer students the chance to participate in free college tours, ACT and SAT test preparation workshops, tutoring, mentoring, financial aid workshops and college preparation summer academies. GEAR UP also will offer college-planning workshops for parents and provide training programs for teachers working in counties the effort serves.

“One of the great things about GEAR UP is that it focuses not only on our kids, but also on their support networks,” Dr. Adam Green, the Commission’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said. “We work with families to show them that degree programs are available and affordable. The program also provides extra training for teachers, so they can better serve students in the classroom.”

“The GEAR UP program has been incredibly successful in West Virginia,” said Dr. Paul L. Hill, the Commission’s Chancellor. “Our research has shown a marked positive difference in parents’ aspirations for their children, with 92 percent of GEAR UP parents believing their child will complete a degree – up from 63 percent when our current program first started. In addition, thanks to West Virginia GEAR UP, more students and parents know about their financial aid options, and thousands of students have toured a college campus. This is progress to celebrate – and build upon.”

Through the new grant, the West Virginia GEAR UP program will serve students in middle and high schools in the following counties: Boone, Fayette, Mason, Mercer, Mingo, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Wirt and Wyoming. Students in the class of 2020 who are enrolled at eligible schools will make up the program’s “cohort” group, meaning they will receive GEAR UP services from their seventh grade year through their first year of college.

Additionally, GEAR UP will provide annual college-planning services to 12th grade students at participating high schools. Three West Virginia colleges — Concord University, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College and West Virginia State University — will provide staff and resources to support the effort.

This marks the third time West Virginia has received a GEAR UP grant and the second time the grant has been awarded to the Commission. Services under the Commission’s previous grant began in 2008 and will continue through July 2015. To learn more about West Virginia GEAR UP and view a list of participating middle and high schools, visit www.wvgearup.org.




Media Note: The following quotes have been provided by partners in the West Virginia GEAR UP effort:

U.S. Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller, IV:

“A strong education puts our youth on a path to reaching their dreams in a competitive and innovative economy. A college degree is so valuable for the students who make a commitment to their future, which is why programs like GEAR UP that encourage more people to attend college are so critical. This program provides students and their families with an arsenal of resources they need to prepare for, pay for and attend college and become the leaders of tomorrow.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, III:

“Higher education is a clear pathway to good-paying job opportunities, economic stability and long-term success. We have a responsibility to make sure that every student who is willing to work hard receives a good education and has the necessary resources and training to achieve their educational and career goals. The GEAR UP Program has already seen effective results in increasing the number of students entering and succeeding at the college level in West Virginia and across the country. By providing greater access to college, this program will help build the educated workforce we need to keep our economy growing and to maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.”

U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito:

“Higher education is the key to a better future. The GEAR UP program will help West Virginia’s students find the educational path that’s right for them — a trade school, two-year degree program or a traditional four-year college. This grant program is highly competitive, and I am proud that West Virginia has been recognized for its efforts to expand access to higher education and create brighter futures for all students.”

U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall, II:

“We all have a stake in ensuring that the pathway to college is open and available to every citizen of our State.  That’s why I have been a consistent advocate of the Federal funding that helps to expand access to the financial aid and support services that ensure the promise of a quality education for our young people is perpetuated and kept.”

James L. Skidmore, Chancellor, West Virginia Community and Technical College System:

“West Virginia GEAR UP has been a force for positive change in our state. To succeed in today’s economy, students must pursue some form of education or training beyond high school. The GEAR UP program helps students explore their various education options — including skill set and certificate programs, two-year degree programs and four-year degree programs — and arms them with the knowledge and resources they need to enroll and succeed. I look forward to continuing our partnership with GEAR UP as we work to advance the skills and knowledge of West Virginia’s workforce.”

Gayle Manchin, President, West Virginia Board of Education:

“GEAR UP is a wonderful opportunity for the students of West Virginia. A driving force throughout K-12 education is to prepare our students to be college and career ready. The GEAR UP program has proven that it aligns directly with this goal and provides the much needed student support for the next steps after graduating from high school.”

Dr. Kendra Boggess, President, Concord University

“This is a critical part of what we do at Concord University to help young people to be successful in college.”

Dr. Brian O. Hemphill, President, West Virginia State University:

“West Virginia State University is proud to be a strategic partner and looks forward to increased partnership with GEAR UP in the coming years to further support West Virginia students. Just last fall, our students hosted 500 area high school students introducing them to college-life and learning from a student-to-student perspective. Additionally, WVSU and the GEAR UP participants worked together to assemble hundreds of science kits for elementary school teachers to use in their classrooms in the hopes of inspiring younger students to develop a love of science and learning.”

Ms. Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, First Lady of West Virginia and President of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College:

“As a community and technical college, our institution’s primary goal is to equip students with the skills they need to succeed in West Virginia’s growing and diverse economy. Our partnership with GEAR UP works toward building a bright future for West Virginia by providing all students the support needed to attain a college education or skillset certification. Developing a skilled and ready workforce is a crucial component of fostering further economic development and growth. GEAR UP provides the counseling and resources needed to help students connect their educational choices to their long-term career goals and sets them on a path to building happy, healthy and fulfilling lives here in the Great State of West Virginia.”