School districts sought for GEAR UP Iowa grant

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


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

Class of 2027 Will Receive College Access Support Beginning in 7th Grade

GEAR UP Iowa is looking for partner school districts for the next cycle of the program to increase college and career access and readiness. GEAR UP seeks districts that are committed to developing innovative supports tailored to students in their communities.

GEAR UP Iowa is a federal grant administered by Iowa College Aid with the primary goal of increasing the number of students in partner schools who graduate from high school prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. With a particular emphasis on low-income and underserved populations, GEAR UP addresses the root causes of college achievement gaps. GEAR UP Iowa has been a component of the state’s efforts to meet its Future Ready Iowa Goal that 70 percent of the workforce will have education or training beyond high school by 2025.

Students and families in GEAR UP Iowa school districts receive support services to prepare them academically, financially, and inspirationally to enroll and succeed in college, beginning in seventh grade and following them through their first year of college. These services include early college exploration such as campus visits, guidance on the value of postsecondary education, academic support such as tutoring and test prep, career exposure such as job site visits, college fairs, help with college and financial aid applications, and “soft skill” development such as attitudes and habits. When they enroll in college, GEAR UP Iowa students receive a scholarship. For districts, the program places GEAR UP coaches, helps align college and career readiness goals, and provides resources for school counselors and other staff. 

GEAR UP Iowa expects to start its next cycle in fall 2021, supporting seventh-graders who will graduate from high school in 2027. Previous cycles served the high school classes of 2014 and 2020, with encouraging results. During their four years in high school, the GEAR UP Iowa class of 2020 received nearly 219,000 hours of support services. They were 20 percentage points more likely to take the ACT than students in non-GEAR UP districts. Financial aid applications this year grew by 3 percentage points at GEAR UP Iowa schools, even as they fell at other Iowa schools and at schools nationwide. Almost 40 percent of 2020 GEAR UP Iowa graduates have already claimed their college scholarships.

For a district to take part in GEAR UP Iowa, at least half its students must qualify for free or reduced price lunch. To indicate interest and receive more information, a district representative should fill out the survey at by December 31. For more information about GEAR UP Iowa, visit or email