GEAR UP Iowa is a program supporting underserved students to prepare, enroll and persist through college. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs and is a federally funded program. In partnerships with local school districts, students and their families receive services aimed at preparing them academically, financially and inspirationally to enroll and succeed in college.

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Program Goals

Student Achievement

Increase the number of underserved and low-income students in GEAR UP Iowa partner schools who graduate from high school prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Support High School Programs

Support GEAR UP Iowa partner high schools in implementing educational programs to ensure students successfully complete rigorous college-preparation curricula, graduate from high school, and easily transition from K-12 into higher education programs.

Student and Family Support

Foster a statewide college-going culture among low-income, underserved and first-generation students. Additionally increase knowledge and support as students and families plan, prepare and pay for postsecondary education beyond high school.

Seamless Intervention Alignment

Partner with organizations with similar missions to support systems and curricula that increase higher education access and student preparedness.

GEAR UP Iowa helps local schools:

  • Identify the student barriers to higher education.
  • Facilitate the completion of a rigorous college preparatory curriculum.
  • Provide intensive academic and wrap-around support to students.
  • Implement activities to educate and inform Iowa families about the value of a postsecondary education.
  • Guide students and families through the college search, application and enrollment process.
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GEAR UP Iowa Grant Awards

GEAR UP Iowa 3.0: GEAR UP Iowa 3.0: A $25.8 million federal GEAR UP grant awarded in September 2023. The seven-year project will partner with 13 Iowa school districts and follow the Class of 2029, a cohort of 7,500 students, through their high school graduation and into their first year of postsecondary education. 

GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready: Launched in 2022 with $5.6 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury's American Rescue Plan. The four-year project supports the Class of 2025, a cohort of 6,000 students, and follows them as they progress through high school graduation, while also supporting the current senior class at each partner school district. GEAR UP Iowa partners with the Bureau of  Iowa College Aid, 11 school districts and nearly 40 institutions of higher education and community-based organizations.

GEAR UP Iowa 2.0: A $22.4 million federal GEAR UP grant awarded in 2014. The seven-year project supported the Class of 2020, a cohort of about 6,300 students beginning in the 7th grade and followed them through high school and their first year of college. The program was implemented in 12 school districts. GEAR UP Iowa 2.0 students also received a scholarship for up to four years upon enrollment in college.

GEAR UP Iowa 1.0: A $16.8 million federal GEAR UP grant awarded in 2008. The project supported the Class of 2014, a cohort of 7,000 students in 17 school districts beginning in 7th grade through their senior year. Upon enrollment in a college, GEAR UP Iowa 1.0 students received a scholarship for up to four years.

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Students and Families

Students in GEAR UP Iowa partner school districts receive support as they progress from middle school through high graduation, and into the first year of their postsecondary pathway. Types of support may include tutoring/academic assistance, college exposure, career exploration, development of social and emotional skills, key wrap-around support, financial literacy, assistance with the FAFSA, transition support and more!

To learn more, reach out to your GEAR UP Iowa contact at these following school districts or contact us directly at

  • Burlington*
  • Cardinal*
  • Centerville
  • Clinton
  • Columbus
  • Davenport
  • Davis County
  • Des Moines
  • Fort Dodge
  • Marshalltown
  • Saydel
  • South Tama
  • Storm Lake

Note: Current school districts serve the Class of 2025 (GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready) and Class of 2029 (GEAR UP Iowa 3.0). 

*Burlington and Cardinal are only serving students in the Class of 2029 (GEAR UP Iowa 3.0)

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GEAR UP Iowa depends on a network of partners to provide the supports to ensure the success of our students. Half of the total cost of the GEAR UP Iowa program is made possible by in-kind matching funds from more than 40 partners across the state. Partner support ensures we are able to provide students with a range of resources, programs, and services such as on-campus experiences across the state, assessing non-cognitive skill development, and creating college savings accounts for students.

Thank you to the following GEAR UP Iowa partners:




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