The program will support a cohort of students over a seven-year period at 13 school districts serving primarily students from low-income backgrounds 

DES MOINES - The Iowa Department of Education today announced that the state has been awarded over $25.8 million in a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. 

The federal Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, commonly referred to as GEAR UP, provides competitive matching grants to states and partnerships working with high-need middle and high schools. The program provides a variety of services aimed at preparing students and families academically, financially and inspirationally to enroll and succeed in college and other postsecondary education pathways. Iowa’s grant will provide funding and support to 13 Iowa school districts over a seven-year period. This is the third competitive GEAR UP grant awarded to the state. 

“We are grateful for this federal investment in our work to provide 7,500 students most in-need of support with critical wrap-around services as they meet high expectations in middle school and beyond,” said McKenzie Snow, Director of the Iowa Department of Education. “Alongside schools, postsecondary institutions, and community partners, we will continue to provide students what they need to realize their incredible potential.”

"We thank Governor Reynolds for her leadership in this successful GEAR UP application and the entire Iowa congressional delegation for its support and recognition of our work as crucial to the future success of Iowa and its students," said Christina Sibaouih, Iowa College Aid Community Engagement Section Chief at the Iowa Department of Education.

Iowa’s proposal partners with 13 Iowa school districts where more than 50 percent of their student body is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, which include: Burlington, Cardinal, Centerville, Clinton, Columbus, Davenport, Davis County, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Saydel, South Tama, and Storm Lake. 

GEAR UP Iowa will follow a cohort of current seventh-grade students through high school graduation in 2029 and into their first year of postsecondary education. Funding will be provided to the partner districts to help them:

  • Grow college and career readiness efforts for all students.
  • Increase school counselor and staff capacity in providing college and career counseling.
  • Provide targeted wrap-around services to meet the academic, behavioral and emotional needs of students and their families.
  • Offer college and career advising, exploration and transition services rooted in students’ Individualized Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) to reinforce their aspirations with a clear plan to and through postsecondary opportunities.

In addition, half of the GEAR UP federal funding, along with more than $8 million in partner contributions, will be dedicated to scholarships for GEAR UP Iowa students to pursue up to four years of postsecondary education and training beyond high school.

GEAR UP Iowa focuses on student achievement by supporting middle school and high school programs, students and families, and creating a seamless transition to postsecondary education for students and families. In 2020, 88 percent of GEAR UP Iowa graduates had plans to complete a two-year or four-year degree program or other postsecondary training and education. GEAR UP Iowa students have also demonstrated higher rates of attendance, reading and math proficiency, increased standardized entrance exam scores and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion.

The GEAR UP grant has a matching component, which will be funded by more than 30 community partners, including school districts, Area Education Agencies, Iowa colleges and universities, and community and business partnerships. Including the partner match, total funding to support GEAR UP Iowa is $51,686,125.

More information about GEAR UP Iowa.