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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 7, 1998


"I also ask this Congress to support our efforts to enlist colleges and universities to reach out to disadvantaged children starting in the sixth grade so that they can get the guidance and hope they need so they can know that they, too, will be able to go on to college."

--President Clinton, State of the Union address, January 27, 1998

The Higher Education Amendments of 1998 launch GEAR UP, a new national effort to encourage more young people to have high expectations, stay in school and study hard, and go to college.

High-achieving students from low-income families are five times less likely to attend college than high-achieving students from high-income families [NELS 1998].

In a recent survey, almost 70% of parents indicated that they have little information or want more information about which courses their child should take to prepare for college, and 89% of parents want more information about how to pay for college, including the use of tax credits [Gallup, Sept. 1998].

The President's High Hopes Proposal. Earlier this year, President Clinton proposed the High Hopes for College initiative to create a national ethic that every college should partner with at least one middle school in a low-income community to help raise expectations and ensure that students are well-prepared for college. In the new HEA law, the High Hopes proposal and the National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership (NEISP) program are joined, as two different types of grants, under the new GEAR UP program.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). This new competitive grant program, authorized at $200 million in FY99, supports early intervention and college awareness activities at both the local and the state level. The Senate's FY99 Appropriations bill allocates to GEAR UP $75 million of the $140 million the President requested for High Hopes. The House Appropriations bill did not include funding for GEAR UP. The final appropriations legislation is now pending in Congress. GEAR UP funding will be split between partnership grants and state grants, with at least one-third allocated to each.

GEAR UP Partnership grants. As outlined in the President's High Hopes for College proposal, this initiative will award multi-year grants to locally-designed partnerships between colleges and high-poverty middle schools, plus at least two other partners -- such as community organizations, businesses, religious groups, state education agencies, parent groups, or non-profits -- to increase college-going rates among low-income youth. To be most effective, partnerships will be based on the following proven strategies:

Informing students and parents about college options and financial aid, and providing students with a 21st Century Scholar Certificate

Promoting rigorous academic coursework based on college entrance requirements;

Working with a whole grade-level of students in order to raise expectations for all students; and

Starting with 6th or 7th grade students and continuing through high school graduation with comprehensive services including mentoring, tutoring, counseling, and other activities such as after school programs, summer academic and enrichment programs, and college visits.

GEAR UP State grants. These grants are based on the current National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership (NEISP) program and will be awarded to states to provide scholarships, college information and early intervention activities. State programs will target services to low-income students and will provide college scholarships for participating students. College and community partnerships are not required but are encouraged, and many NEISP programs involve local organizations. Nine states received NEISP grants in FY98 totaling $3.6 million. These NEISP programs provide a variety of early intervention services and college awareness activities to students from 1st to 12th grade.

We anticipate that GEAR UP grant applications will be available in the beginning of next year. Questions or requests for more information can be directed to


Many states education agencies, colleges, and secondary schools have had success working together to increase college enrollment rates among low-income students. To this end, the new GEAR UP program will support early intervention initiatives with elements of the successful practices described below.

Early Identification Program (Fairfax, Virginia): George Mason University (GMU) and the Fairfax County Public Schools developed the Early Identification Program (EIP) in 1987 to increase the number of minority students who enter college. Since then, additional school districts and new partners have joined the effort, including Booz Allen and Hamilton, Mobil Corporation, NationsBank and Crestar Bank. The program works with minority students that demonstrate academic potential and provides year-round tutoring, mentoring and other support throughout high school, including weekend and summer academic programs, special projects in math, science, English and computer science, campus visits, and workshops for parents. The program reports having graduated 6 classes from high school with a 71% retention rate. Of those who completed 4 years in EIP, 95% have gone on to college.

Pace Hispanic Outreach Program (White Plains, NY): The program is a unique tutorial initiative for Hispanic immigrant students at the White Plains High School that is run through a collaborative effort involving the White Plains School District, Pace University and Centro Hispano. One-to-one tutorial sessions are held during study hall periods and are designed to complement and reinforce classroom instruction in English, mathematics and social studies. In addition, the program enlists high school counselors to provide weekly clinics to help high school seniors prepare college applications, financial aid forms and essays. Active community support and parental involvement has helped build confidence among participants by reducing the sense of powerlessness that language barriers cause in some Hispanic families.

Passport to College (Riverside, California): At the core of this effort is a partnership between Riverside Community College in California, the local school district, and a number of schools and local businesses. Its purpose is to encourage disadvantaged students to continue on to college. The program works with an entire grade of students, beginning in 5th grade, and follows them through high school graduation. Currently, 11,500 students are participating. Volunteers work with the students, teachers and parents in activities, including: campus tours, classroom presentations, teacher training workshops, parent meetings, and financial aid workshops. All participating students who graduate from high school are guaranteed admission to Riverside Community College.

Project GRAD (Houston, Texas): Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) is a school-community collaboration to improve the instructional quality and school environment for children in Houston's inner city schools. This effort combines research-based curricular reform in math, reading and language arts with comprehensive services, including tutoring, mentoring and counseling, for children in kindergarten through high school. The project works with whole networks of schools -- elementary through high school -- to develop a consistent emphasis on high standards for all students. Project GRAD also promises all 9th grade students a $1,000 per year college scholarship if they reach basic academic standards. Currently, 24 schools in Houston and over 17,000 students are involved with Project GRAD. This massive effort is supported by a partnership of school, corporate, and community-based organizations and foundations.