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GEAR UP North Carolina

In 2019, the University of North Carolina System Office was awarded a new, seven-year, $25.7 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant. This is the fourth statewide GEAR UP grant that the UNC System has secured since 2000. 

GEAR UP stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” and is a national college access initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The grant program is designed to increase the number of low-income students enrolled and succeeding in postsecondary education. As a state grantee, GEAR UP North Carolina collaborates on initiatives with state college access partners and disseminates college-going information statewide. In target school districts, located in financially disadvantaged areas, GEAR UP reaches students to get them motivated and on track to pursue postsecondary education. The program’s work with 12th graders is designed to help students and their families think about college and complete college enrollment steps. 

GEAR UP NC uses a two-part strategy to serve students, their families, and school leaders in nineteen schools across multiple school districts. GEAR UP NC directly engages students in partner schools starting in the 6th grade, providing these students with academic readiness and college access support over the course of their middle and high school careers. Services include customized instruction and support to improve math and science preparation and afterschool and summer academic enrichment. These students will continue to receive support, including access to apprenticeship opportunities, as they complete high school and their first year of postsecondary education. Fifteen high schools across multiple school districts will receive GEAR UP priority services. Special consideration is given to high schools with low rates of college enrollment. In the priority model, twelfth graders and their families receive just-in-time support, such as financial aid counseling, college advising, and college match and fit counseling. Students also receive coaching during their first year of college to increase postsecondary persistence. By 2026, GEAR UP North Carolina will provide academic preparation and college access services to nearly 35,000 students and their families.  

Federal Goals 

  • Increase GEAR UP students’ academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education 
  • Increase the rate of high school graduation and participation in postsecondary education for GEAR UP students 
  • Increase GEAR UP students’ and their families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing