GEAR UP’s been a buzzword in education news recently. Need a quick recap on potential budget cuts and the approaching 2017 application deadline? See what GEAR UP programs are up to these days and learn how to win points on your grant application.

1) What is GEAR UP?

GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. It’s a federal grant program run by the Department of Education that was signed into law in 1998 by President Clinton.

GEAR UP programs use the funds to increase the number of low-income students that enter and succeed in college. At least 50% of students in GEAR UP programs are eligible for free or reduced-lunch.

2) What’s happening with GEAR UP today?

The President recently proposed cutting $9.2 billion from the Department of Education’s budget. GEAR UP’s funding would be cut by 33% and future GEAR UP funding to local partners would freeze after 2017. On the bright side, bipartisan leaders in Congress have historically pushed back on cuts to college readiness programs, so it’s possible GEAR UP funding won’t be affected.

In other news, the Department of Education recently released the GEAR UP grant application for 2017 grants, which are due on Monday, April 24, 2017.

GEAR UP Programs using Signal Vine

3) How can you win points on your GEAR UP grant application?

There are three Competitive Preference Priorities on the application. Earning points on these Priorities makes it more likely that you’ll win GEAR UP funding to help your students succeed.

Competitive Preference Priority #3 awards two points to “projects designed to implement at least one strategy supported by evidence of effectiveness.” Consider adding text messaging to your application. It’s an effective, evidence-based strategy for disseminating information about higher education and preparing students for college.

Here are two peer-reviewed studies about text messaging that you can use to win those points:
  1. Freshman year financial aid nudges: An experiment to increase FAFSA renewal and college persistence
  2. Summer nudging: Can personalized text messages and peer mentor outreach increase college going among low-income high school graduates?
    • Text messaging reminders sent to low-income students in the state of Massachusetts resulted in an 11% increase in matriculation and reduction in Summer Melt.

Both of the studies used Signal Vine’s text messaging platform to get these results.

4) Which GEAR UP programs use texting?

Text messaging is used by dozens of GEAR UP (and TRIO) programs around the country. Statewide GEAR UP programs in Vermont, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas, and Arizona use texting, along with dozens of university grantees like Berea College and Eastern New Mexico University Roswell.

GEAR UP programs use texting to:

  • Advise students as they plan for college
  • Guide students through financial aid processes
  • Stay in touch with students after they transition to college

“It was helpful and convenient to receive assistance through texts, especially when it came to reminders about completing the FAFSA.” – GEAR UP student, West Virginia GEAR UP

Need more help winning those two points?

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About the author: Stephanie is the Director of Business Development at Signal Vine and has more than 8 years of experience in marketing and sales. Learn more about Stephanie here and visit her LinkedIn