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The GEAR UP program is working for students in Washington State.

Washington was awarded its third consecutive state GEAR UP grant in September 2011. The six-year, $27 million award provides direct services to over 7,500 students and their families in 28 high-poverty school districts statewide, starting in 7th grade. With the program’s dollar-for-dollar cost-share requirement, the total program investment will be $54 million.

In 2007, Washington became the first state in the country with state-funded support for the GEAR UP program. The Legislature approved $2.5 million for the 2011–13 biennium. This funding, combined with other private, partner, and school district resources, helps the state to meet the federal GEAR UP grant’s required dollar-for-dollar cost share. Funding for the 2013-15 biennium is $2 million. The majority of these state funds are passed on to thirteen high-poverty school districts to support over 1,200 low-income students and their families as they prepare for postsecondary education. 
In addition to the Washington State GEAR UP, there are nine partnership programs across the state serving a combined total of 72 school districts and 35,000 students and families. GEAR UP focuses on students from underserved schools, helping them to prepare for college and gain access to financial aid. Central Washington University, The Evergreen State College, Wenatchee School District, Washington State University, and the University of Washington host these partnership programs. 


GEAR UP provides several key enrichment activities for participating students. GEAR UP continues to enjoy very high student and family participation rates. 

For the most recent grant cycle, which served the Class of 2011, the following outcomes were documented in an evaluation conducted by the WSU Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC).

  • 100% of GEAR UP students attended information sessions related to college admissions, financing, and scholarship opportunities during their junior year of high school.
  • 97% of GEAR UP students took the ACT or SAT.
  • 98% of GEAR UP students completed the FAFSA.


Compared with other low-income students, GEAR UP participants had more positive outcomes on virtually all measures of enrollment, persistence, and degree attainment, according to a study by WSU-SESRC. For example:

  • First-year college attendance (2-or 4-year) for GEAR UP participants was 69% versus 41% in the comparison group. 
  • 26% of GEAR UP students enrolled in a 4-year college directly from high school, compared to 12% of the comparison group.


A recently released series of third-party evaluation reports prove what we've known all along: GEAR UP works.  In this three-part series of reports commissioned by Washington State GEAR UP, we share findings that evaluate the progress made by our program.

From Dreams to Plans to College

The first in the evaluation series is a study of five communities and school districts where GEAR UP has had a meaningful impact in helping develop systemic changes to level the playing field in education for students from low-income backgrounds. The voices of school administrators, teachers, parents, and students are represented, and the report features common elements of effective GEAR UP programs that can be easily replicated by schools and programs nationwide

Building Teacher Knowledge to Increase College Readiness 2012

The second in the series, this study provides summary results of the Arroyo Research Services evaluation of the College Readiness Professional Development Project for the Washington Student Achievement Council. This evaluation measured the effects of the program’s intensive, content-focused tutoring and instructional model that assists students in the core academic areas necessary for college success. The program included treatment and control schools that agreed to submit comparable student and other data designed to enable comparison of school conditions and student support services. Teachers in the treatment schools participated in professional development and coaching related to the Washington State College Readiness Standards and Student Attributes and redesigned student experiences and classroom lessons to better address those standards

Making the Dream a Reality

A follow-up to a 2008 study by the Social Sciences & Economic Research Center at Washington State University, contrasts GEAR UP participants with a comparison group of other low‐income students. The study proves that GEAR UP students had more positive outcomes on virtually all measures of enrollment, persistence, degree attainment, and employment. For example, first-year college attendance for GEAR UP participants was 68% higher than in the comparison group – including 117% higher four‐year college attendance.