School districts chosen for GEAR UP grant application


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

Program prepares underserved students for college and career success

Thirteen Iowa school districts have been selected as partners in applying for a GEAR UP grant to begin this fall, Iowa College Aid announced today. GEAR UP is a federal program to increase college and career access and readiness for low-income, minority, and first-generation students. If Iowa receives the grant, it will be the state’s third.

GEAR UP Iowa, administered by Iowa College Aid, supports students and families from seventh grade through the first year of college. The program helps schools provide services that include college and career exploration, academic support, “soft skill” development, and assistance with college and financial aid applications. GEAR UP Iowa also places coaches in schools and provides resources for school counselors and other staff. When GEAR UP Iowa students enroll in college, they receive a scholarship.

GEAR UP Iowa 1.0 received a $16.8 million matching grant to serve the high school class of 2014 in 17 districts. GEAR UP Iowa 2.0 received $22.4 million to serve the high school class of 2020 in 12 districts. GEAR UP Iowa 3.0, pending approval of the grant, is expected to serve the high school class of 2027 in the following districts that applied to be partners in Iowa College Aid’s proposal:

  • Cedar Rapids
  • Centerville
  • Clinton
  • Columbus Junction
  • Davenport
  • Davis County
  • Denison
  • Des Moines
  • Fort Dodge
  • Marshalltown
  • Saydel
  • South Tama
  • Storm Lake

These 13 districts encompass about 6,300 students who will be in seventh grade this fall. Centerville, Davis County, Saydel, and South Tama are new to GEAR UP Iowa; the others are returning from 2.0. For a district to take part, at least half its students must qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

“Our goal is to make college more accessible to underserved students, and we have data showing that GEAR UP works,” said Dr. Mark Wiederspan, Executive Director of Iowa College Aid. “Studies of our first two grants show that GEAR UP Iowa students are more likely to apply to college, apply for financial aid, and to go to college than their non-GEAR UP peers. They also have higher standardized test scores and higher high school attendance rates. We’re optimistic about receiving a third grant and excited to extend these benefits to a new group of Iowa students.”

Learn more about the federal program here. Learn more about GEAR UP Iowa here.