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Pennsylvania State Gear Up




About UsGEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a nation-wide, college readiness grant initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Pennsylvania has a rich history of state-wide GEAR UP programming, with approximately 18,911 students from 40+ middle and high schools served by PA State GEAR UP grants since 2002. PA State GEAR UP-3 is the Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education's (State System) third statewide GEAR UP grant. Awarded in September 2014, PA State GEAR UP-3 is a $23.6 million grant that will provide services for the next seven years (through 2021) to students, parents, and educators within our GEAR UP-3 target schools and cohort (Class of 2020).

Currently, the PA State GEAR UP-3 grant provides academic support and college readiness services to approximately 2,800 seventh grade students (Class of 2020) within the Allentown School District, Harrisburg School District, School District of Lancaster, and Norristown Area School District. The PA State GEAR UP-3 grant has state-wide partnerships with the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union [PSECU], the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency [PHEAA], PA 529 College Savings Program, SAGE Scholars, Inc., and the 14 State System universities. Additionally, each GEAR UP-3 school district is tasked with developing partnerships with local businesses, community organizations, and higher education institutions to further support PA State GEAR UP-3 goals within their communities.

Goals and Objectives

Pennsylvania State GEAR UP-3's goal is to increase student achievement through data-driven decisions, develop a sustainable college-going culture, and establish a shared community vision for equitable college access and success.

PA State GEAR UP-3's specific objectives include:

  1. Increase student achievement, graduation rates, and students' preparation for postsecondary education.
  2. Develop a "college-going culture" within GEAR UP-3 schools and communities.
  3. Increase parent knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing.
  4. Increase enrollment and first-year to second-year persistence in postsecondary education.

Collective Impact Model

PA State GEAR UP-3 will replicate a research-based Collective Impact Model to address the college access needs of its students and families. Not just a collaborative, Collective Impact is a rigorous problem-solving process that brings together leaders from key organizations as well as representatives affected by the program (students, parents, educators). Challenges addressed by the Collective Impact process typically have no simple solution and sometimes require complex problem solving strategies. Focused on continuous learning, Collective Impact enables leaders from different community sectors to solve a specific problem using a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities. Collective Impact provides opportunities for reflection, dialogue, asking questions, challenging assumptions, and seeking feedback. This continuous feedback loop will inform PA State GEAR UP-3 decisions, find synergies among grant partners, and seek results for GEAR UP-3 students and families.

PA State GEAR UP-3 has identified five key components toward its vision of equitable college access for all students. Each Collective Impact partner will use its expertise and resources toward one or more of the following components:

  • Developing a college-going culture
  • Providing students' with academic support and enrichment
  • Developing students' non-cognitive skills
  • Increasing family engagement
  • Ensuring quality school district staff

Collective Impact Model