West Virginia awarded $24 million federal “GEAR UP” college-readiness grant to support students over the next seven years

CHARLESTON, WV – Students in eleven West Virginia counties will have extra help preparing for college and career training programs, thanks to a $24 million grant awarded to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission). The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the Commission will receive a “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” (GEAR UP) grant – its third consecutive GEAR UP award – to support college-planning and readiness services for more than 17,500 students over the next seven years.

“This is absolutely tremendous news for some of West Virginia’s most deserving and rural communities. I’m really proud of our team and partners for their hard work in securing this meaningful funding,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education. “Through GEAR UP, we’ve been able to provide nearly 840,000 hours of help to students, parents and teachers in the college-going process. Now, we can continue this work for thousands of new students. I want to thank Senators Manchin and Capito for their incredible support to keep this federal program strong, as well as Governor Justice for his leadership as we continue encouraging our young people to pursue postsecondary education.”

“This grant will go a long way over the next seven years toward helping more of our young people pursue their college and career dreams,” said Governor Jim Justice. “I’d like to thank our U.S. Senators, as well as Chancellor Tucker and her team, for their hard work in keeping this program going for our kids.” 

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.

“I have experienced firsthand how the West Virginia GEAR UP program helps students discover opportunities to continue their education beyond high school and the message of affordability,” said Taylor Raby, a 2014 West Virginia GEAR UP alum. “I credit the program for helping me select my postsecondary pathway. I have witnessed those lightbulb moments that students have when they discover education is attainable, and GEAR UP helped do that for me.”

Through the new grant, West Virginia GEAR UP will serve students in middle and high schools in the following counties:

  • Boone
  • Clay
  • Lincoln
  • Logan
  • Mason
  • Mingo
  • Nicholas
  • Roane
  • Wayne
  • Webster
  • Wirt

Students in the classes of 2028 and 2029 who are enrolled at eligible schools will make up the program’s “cohort” groups, 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 and continue services through their first year of college. Three West Virginia colleges – Glenville State College, Marshall University and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College – will provide staff and resources to support the effort.

This marks the fourth time West Virginia has received a GEAR UP grant and the third time the grant has been awarded to the Commission. To learn more about West Virginia GEAR UP, visit www.wvgearup.org.

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