For Immediate Release
From the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education

U.S. Department of Education Awards $29.7M to Fund College Access, Scholarships for MA Students

GEAR UP Will Help 6300 Students in Seven Urban Districts Get To College with Academic, Financial Support
Four GEAR UP students pose in a photo booth with signs reading "#GEARUPMass," "COLLEGE BOUND," "#GoHigherMA," and "I'm Ready"


Contact: Katy Abel
MA Department of Higher Education
Office: (617) 994-6932 | Cell: (617) 429-2026

Boston, MA – October 30, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $29.7 million to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to continue funding GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), its successful college access and scholarship program, at 16 schools in seven urban districts across the Commonwealth.
The program, now in its 19th year, will provide tutoring, mentoring, and scholarships for 6300 middle and high school students in Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester for the next seven years.

“Providing Massachusetts students with the academic support to succeed and graduate from high school with a college and career plan in place is a priority for our administration,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Support from GEAR UP, coupled with scholarship opportunities and early college programs, plays a critical role in preparing our students for successful careers after graduation.”
Students and their families receive help with the college search and application process, SAT test preparation, financial counseling and academic support services intended to help students arrive on campus prepared to succeed in credit-bearing coursework.

“GEAR UP has been a proven success in Massachusetts, and I am proud that the Department of Education has been recognized for its achievements,” said U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass). “This investment of federal and state dollars is an effective boost for low-income and first generation students to get into and succeed throughout college. I am glad to see this program include communities all across the Commonwealth, and am excited to follow the accomplishments of these students as they graduate high school and enroll in colleges and universities.”
“Every hard-working kid who wants to get an education deserves the chance to do so – that’s why I’m thrilled that Massachusetts has received this GEAR UP grant,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). “With this critical investment by the federal government, over 6,300 students from around the Commonwealth will get the help they need to graduate high school and go to college.”

GEAR UP sponsors an annual Massachusetts College Application Celebration (MCAC) to help boost the number of college applications from students at 31 high schools. The program has also invested in a texting program called Signalvine, which enables GEAR UP staff to text high school graduates during the summer months in an effort to reduce "summer melt," the phenomenon whereby low-income, college-bound students often fail to enroll in college the fall after their high school graduation.

“I could not be happier to see our GEAR UP grant renewed by the federal government,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “And I am especially proud to see that our Massachusetts application was ranked the highest among states competing for these funds. We have a very strong program that offers much-needed assistance to students who might otherwise never find their way to college.”
“This investment in our students will have a significant and sustainable impact on their education, their preparedness for college, and their future success in the workforce,” Education Secretary James Peyser said.

“We are thrilled to provide GEAR UP services to Massachusetts students for another seven years,” said GEAR UP Director Robert Dais. “Since 1999, GEAR UP has served more than 35,000 low-income, first generation students in the Commonwealth. The work to get students ready to succeed in college not only enhances individual lives but also benefits the state as a whole, given Massachusetts’ ongoing need for more college graduates who are prepared for jobs in knowledge-based industries.”

‘GEAR UP has been an amazing partner of Springfield Public Schools,” said Lydia E. Martinez-Alvarez, Assistant Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools. “They listened to the needs of our District and worked closely to not only achieve the goal, but also cater to the interests of the students. We are proud to be a partner of the GEAR UP team.”

District-level data indicates that students engaged in the GEAR UP program have higher college-going rates than students who do not participate. In the Worcester Public Schools, for example, 81% of GEAR UP participants enrolled in college in the fall semester immediately following their high school graduation, as compared with a college-going rate of 57.7% for a control group of non-GEAR UP students in the district (source: WPS College and Career Readiness Network Report, 2016, Worcester Public Schools, Office of Research and Accountability, 2016).

"The seven years that I was in GEAR UP definitely helped me shape the person that I am today,” said GEAR UP graduate Kara Danas  now a senior English literature major at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and recipient of $3,000 in GEAR UP scholarships. “I credit GEAR UP with showing me how to reach my full potential, and the wonderful guidance that I received is most definitely a large reason as to why I am a dedicated and hardworking university student today."
"GEAR UP has opened my eyes to so many opportunities and motivated me to work hard so that one day I can get into the college of my choice,” said GEAR UP student Delise Ramazani, 11th grader at North High School in Worcester.  “In eighth grade I was part of a leadership event and we actually got to live in a dorm at Worcester State University for a couple days.  It was amazing to feel like a college student!  In high school they have taught us about the college admissions process and how to apply for financial aid, and I've had the opportunity to tour many campuses and speak with admissions officers.”
For more information on GEAR UP’s program in Massachusetts, please visit




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