New study shows federal GEAR UP program steering more West Virginians to college

Charleston, W.Va. – According to information presented today to the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission, the federal GEAR UP program is achieving its mission in West Virginia. The 2014 High School Senior Opinions Survey revealed that GEAR UP, which helps students in high-need West Virginia counties prepare for higher education, is successfully providing young West Virginians with the tools they need to attend – and succeed – in college.

According to the survey conducted in spring 2014 among students at 45 schools, more than seven out of 10 seniors in GEAR UP high schools received direct assistance from college representatives, while fewer than five of 10 seniors in schools not served by the program received similar help. In addition, GEAR UP students were three times more likely to accurately estimate the cost of tuition and they submitted greater numbers of college applications than non-GEAR UP students.

“This survey shows that our GEAR UP students are highly-knowledgeable about college costs and financial aid options, and that they are taking the right steps toward pursuing and completing their college education,” said Paul Hill, the Commission’s Chancellor. “It also shows that investments in early intervention programs work in West Virginia – and that we should be doing even more for a greater number of students across our state.”

Students in 10 West Virginia counties have extra help preparing for college and career training programs through a $21 million grant awarded to the Commission last year by the U.S. Department of Education. The “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” (GEAR UP) grant – the Commission’s second consecutive GEAR UP award – is supporting college-planning and readiness services for nearly 17,000 students over the next seven years.

The High School Senior Opinions Survey is designed to better inform policy leaders as they work to improve the number of West Virginia high school graduates enrolling in college. It focuses on student perspectives, experiences and plans as they transition to life beyond high school. The full survey of 2014 high school seniors is available here.