Governor Ned Lamont today announced that Connecticut is receiving a seven-year, $25.8 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will assist the state in its efforts to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The funding will allow three Connecticut community colleges to collaborate with local school districts to implement and carry out the project. The local alliances include Manchester Community College with East Hartford Public Schools, Naugatuck Valley Community College with Waterbury Public Schools, and Middlesex Community College with Meriden Public Schools.
“Our community colleges play a critical role in equipping our young people with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy,” Governor Lamont said. “They are the engines driving the quality of Connecticut’s workforce and we must ensure that all of our young people are able to not only access these opportunities for their careers, but also are set up for success once enrolled. This partnership between local school districts and Connecticut’s community colleges will help accomplish that goal by helping students from a young age prepare for the rigors of a college education. By extension, it will make our communities, and our economy, stronger.”
Through these local alliances, students from high-need areas of Connecticut starting in seventh grade will receive early college awareness and support activities like tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation, financial education, and college scholarships to improve access to higher education for low income, minority and disadvantaged first-generation students and their families.
“As a result of this GEAR UP grant, more of our low-income Connecticut students will be able to reach and succeed in college,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Chris Murphy, Congressman John Larson, and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes said in a joint statement. “It is critical that we continue working to ensure all Connecticut students, regardless of income, receive the early support that prepares them for college and career.”
The funding was awarded to the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU), which will administer the funding and oversee the alliances.
“The GEAR UP program is a highly effective way to help prepare potential first-generation college students to succeed in the classroom and develop the skills to transition into a meaningful career,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said. “We are proud to work hand in hand with local school districts to help students realize their true potential.”
“We are very excited to continue our GEAR UP relationship with East Hartford Public Schools, a longtime partner on various innovative projects and grants,” Manchester Community College Interim CEO Dr. Tanya Millner said. “This grant enables us to participate in a great initiative that’s not only a part of Connecticut’s education landscape, but that also plays a major college- and career-readiness role in all 50 states.”
In 2012, Connecticut was awarded a seven year, $31.5 million GEAR UP grant. Under the program, Connecticut saw steady progress in preparing low income and underserved students for academic success through high school and successful enrollment in postsecondary education. For instance, the percentage of East Hartford High School students deemed “college ready” according to the Connecticut Department of Education based on their SAT scores rose from 41.6 percent in 2017 to 45.1 percent in 2018.
“GEAR UP has provided me with very valuable skills to enable me to succeed at the college level, as well as making a difference in my preparedness to participate in the work force,” Victor Sosa, a GEAR UP student since seventh grade, said. “I am currently employed full time and going to Manchester full time, and I look forward to pursuing my bachelor’s degree following graduation here. I am very happy with the doors GEAR UP has opened for me.”
“Working to improve educational outcomes for students in Waterbury and all of our service areas is one of our dearest goals at NVCC,” Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, president of Naugatuck Valley Community College, said. “We are grateful for the continued opportunity to collaborate in support of improved completions for grades seven through high school and ultimately the college attendance that the GEAR UP grant affords our community.”
“Middlesex Community College is thrilled to strengthen our existing relationship with the Meriden School District to help local students prepare to succeed in college and beyond,” Middlesex Community College Interim CEO Steven Minkler said. “Our community colleges open doors and expand opportunities for people of all backgrounds, and this funding will help level the playing field for students from high-need communities.
“We are very pleased to be part of this new GEAR UP grant,” East Hartford Superintendent of Schools Nathan Quesnel said. “East Hartford Public Schools’ partnership with MCC on GEAR UP goes back to 2012, and it has made a difference in the lives of so many of our students. It is exciting to have this opportunity extended to a new group of students in Connecticut.”
This round of GEAR UP funding is slated to run through 2026.
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