CONTRIBUTED BY AUBURN UNIVERSITY NEWS
Led by efforts from the College of Education and University Outreach, Auburn University has received an $18.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education to provide greater access and opportunities to more than 6,500 Alabama middle school students.
The seven-year grant was awarded to Auburn’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Achieve initiative and is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The program features $2.6 million in first-year funding and an expected total funding of $18.4 million, which represents half of the overall projected cost.
An equal amount of non-federal funding will be provided, and the grant represents a record disbursement for both the College of Education and University Outreach. The two units will collaborate on implementation and execution of the program. That $18.4 million in federal grant money, when coupled with partnerships and cost-sharing from other state agencies like the Alabama State Department of Education, expands to more than $36.8 million in total value for Alabama students.
“This record grant is a game-changer for Alabama students, and I am proud Auburn’s College of Education and University Outreach will be spearheading the program,” said Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts. “Initiatives like GEAR UP Achieve speak to Auburn’s land-grant mission, and we are committed to improving access to higher education opportunities for students throughout our great state. I applaud Gov. Kay Ivey and everyone who has had a hand in this grant procurement, and I am confident it will help us change lives as we work to build a better tomorrow for our communities.”
The grant will help provide academic and postsecondary education support to a cohort of thousands of seventh-grade students enrolled in Alabama middle schools across seven regions of the state beginning the 2023-24 school year. The grant will follow this cohort’s students for seven years through high school and into their first year of postsecondary education to help ensure greater post-secondary access and success.
“GEAR UP Achieve is significant for Auburn’s College of Education in a variety of ways, including being the largest grant in the college’s history,” said Jeffrey T. Fairbrother, College of Education dean and Wayne T. Smith Distinguished Professor. “We’re focused on the impact this collaborative initiative will have on the lives of students and families. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work with our colleagues in University Outreach and partners throughout the state to impact the next generation of students, who will have greater access to higher education and be equipped to thrive in college because of GEAR UP Achieve.”
The program has the full support of Ivey, an Auburn graduate who designated the institution as the eligible applicant to apply for federal funds on behalf of the state.
“Alabama’s young people are our future, and we must continually strive to afford them the best opportunities to learn and achieve,” Ivey said. “The GEAR UP Achieve program is a landmark investment in the futures of thousands of Alabama middle school students that will reap a positive outcome in their education and careers. I am delighted to see these funds awarded to the Auburn University College of Education, which will administer the GEAR UP Achieve program for more than two dozen schools across our state.
“GEAR UP offers a path for young scholars from low-income households to pursue and achieve their dreams of higher education through advanced instruction, monitoring of their progress and guidance in preparing for college admissions. I can’t wait to get started.”
The grant will be administered through the Auburn College of Education’s Truman Pierce Institute, the Center for Educational Outreach and Engagement (University Outreach) and the Department of Curriculum and Teaching in the College of Education to empower Alabama’s next generation as they participate in this program for the next seven years.
“I am excited to see how GEAR UP Achieve will positively impact Alabama’s students for years to come,” said Royrickers Cook, vice president for University Outreach and associate provost. “This grant is essential in improving access where college and career readiness support is most needed.
“I also am excited about this collaboration between Auburn University Outreach and the College of Education to bring GEAR UP to Alabama. This grant will help to widen the college pipeline in Alabama providing college and career support for the students who need it the most.”
GEAR UP Achieve is designed to improve access for students across the state, with strategic goals that include:
• Improving access to high-quality literacy and mathematics instruction
• Leveraging state-level data to monitor students’ academic progress
• Supporting school counselors, career coaches and academic advisors in guiding students toward higher education opportunities
• Assisting students and their families in navigating the college admissions process and preparing to meet Alabama’s workforce needs
• Increasing awareness of the costs of higher education and providing technical assistance to students and their families in completing the requirements for receiving financial aid.
In meeting the priorities of this grant, GEAR UP Achieve is serving students in districts where college and career readiness support is most needed. Additionally, the grant’s incorporation of a data system to track students’ academic progress toward post-secondary entry is a welcome tool for widening the college pipeline in Alabama.
Headed by Jason Bryant, an associate clinical professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education, and Anna-Margaret Goldman from University Outreach, GEAR UP Achieve will serve as a catalyst to support and cultivate the academic potential within students that will ultimately ensure their success as adults.
“GEAR UP Achieve will allow us an opportunity to work with a cohort of students beginning in the seventh grade through their first year of college to provide support and resources to empower them for future success,” said Bryant, who serves as director of the Truman Pierce Institute. “Our reach will be felt across 30 school systems and impact just over 6,500 students from across the state, representing seven regions to become better prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.”
The grant proposal involved multiple partnerships across the state, with support from Alabama State Department of Education, Regional Inservice Centers and the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI). The quality of academic services and experiences provided collaboratively for the students in GEAR UP Achieve aims to enhance their quality of life and ensure success at school and in the workplace.
Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.