GEAR UP Iowa celebrates students and partners

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


Elizabeth Keest Sedrel
(o) 515-725-3417  (c) 515-710-1257

Lawmakers praise program to promote college access for underserved students

GEAR UP Iowa is recognizing its students and college partners as part of national GEAR UP Week, September 21-25. GEAR UP is a federal grant aimed at increasing college access and success for students in low-income school districts. Iowa’s current GEAR UP students graduated from high school this past spring and have just begun their postsecondary education. They include more than 6,000 students from 12 school districts. GEAR UP began offering college awareness and preparation services when the students were in seventh grade and will continue to support them through the coming year with a scholarship of up to $1,200 a year, as well as college success coaching.

The national GEAR UP program was established in 1998, and Iowa received its first grant in 2008. The current grant is Iowa’s second and serves to move the state toward its Future Ready Iowa goal of 70 percent of the workforce having education beyond high school by 2025. GEAR UP has enjoyed longstanding, bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and among Iowa’s delegation.

Senator Charles Grassley praised both GEAR UP and Iowa College Aid, the state agency that administers the grant. “The GEAR UP program seeks to bridge the gap for many students and families who are looking to further their education after high school,” he said. “Education is one of the most important tools in our society, and I applaud the effort by Iowa College Aid to help low-income, minority, and first-generation Iowans looking to attend college.”

Representative Cindy Axne related her experience with GEAR UP students and her own children. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet with graduates whose success is in no small part thanks to the help and assistance they received at GEAR UP and Iowa College Aid,” she said. “As a mom who just sent my first child off to college, I know firsthand how confusing and stressful this process can be. GEAR UP Iowa is making sure parents, students, and families have the knowledge and assistance they need.”

While GEAR UP students graduated from high school in uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been successful on multiple fronts:

  • 50 percent of GEAR UP Iowa students had completed a FAFSA as of July 2—a gain of 4 percent from a year earlier at those schools, even as the national FAFSA filing rate fell by 4 percent.
  • 88 percent of GEAR UP Iowa's 2020 high school graduates plan to complete a two-year, four-year, or higher college degree.
  • 69 percent of GEAR UP Iowa students took the ACT in 11th grade, exceeding the baseline at their schools by 21 percent.
  • GEAR UP Iowa students had higher attendance, greater gains in reading and math proficiency from seventh through 10th grade, and higher rates of college readiness in reading than their non-GEAR UP peers.

As part of its ongoing effort to help students make a successful transition from high school to college, GEAR UP Iowa has awarded grants to the following college partners:

  • Des Moines Area Community College
  • Drake University
  • Eastern Iowa Community College
  • Grand View University
  • Indian Hills Community College
  • Iowa State University
  • Simpson College
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Northern Iowa

GEAR UP Iowa students came from the following school districts:

  • Cedar Rapids
  • Clinton
  • Columbus Junction
  • Davenport
  • Denison
  • Des Moines
  • Fort Dodge
  • Marshalltown
  • Ottumwa
  • Perry
  • Sioux City
  • Storm Lake

Find more information about current services for GEAR UP Iowa students at