Oklahoma has won a five-year grant totaling more than $20.5 million to better prepare students - especially those from low income families - for college, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced recently.
Regents also announced that nine Oklahoma school districts and East Central University in Ada will receive an estimated $23.5 million over five years to expand statewide preparation activities locally.
The grants were awarded through the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a federal program established by Congress last year to fund partnerships of colleges and universities, middle schools, community-based organizations and businesses to prepare low-income students for college.
"This is an exciting day in Oklahoma history," said Chancellor Hans Brisch, noting that Oklahoma received the highest per capita award in the nation and the third largest state-level grant, exceeded only by California and Texas.
"Through GEAR UP, Oklahoma has an unprecedented opportunity to take a giant leap forward in expanding the range of programs and services we can offer our upper elementary, middle and high school students," Brisch said. "The impact of this program will be felt for generations to come as more students prepare for college and achieve personal and professional success."
Specifically, Oklahoma's GEAR UP Program will:
Brisch noted that one factor in Oklahoma's selection for the state-level award was its existing commitment to academic preparation. For example, in addition to operating OHLAP, the State Regents administer a multi-year education and career preparation system for middle and high school students called the Educational Planning and Assessment System.
Regents also announced last January an aggressive initiative to increase the proportion of Oklahomans with a bachelor's degree or above to 28 percent by 2010 and the proportion with an associate degree to 10 percent.
"Today, more than ever, Oklahomans' ability to compete and succeed in the global, knowledge-based economy depends on their academic preparation," Brisch said. "By building on our existing programs, GEAR UP can help Oklahoma close the gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots' by making additional educational opportunities available to all students, regardless of where they live, their gender and their ethnic background."
State Regents Chairman Bill W. Burgess Jr. said, "Part of the program's strengths are the substantial partnerships and collaborations with state and national education leaders. By working together, we can better leverage financial and human resources to make an even bigger difference in the lives of our young people.
"We look forward to building on these relationships and forging even more as we expand our work in this very important area," Burgess said.
The nine Oklahoma school districts receiving GEAR UP funds are: Checotah Public Schools, Jay Public Schools, Locust Grove Public Schools, Miami Public Schools, Muskogee Public Schools, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Stillwell Public Schools, Tahlequah Public Schools and Tulsa Public Schools. The State Regents are serving as Oklahoma's fiscal and administrative agent for Gear-Up as designated by the governor.
statewide GEAR UP grant has been matched by more than $25 million
from state and partner resources. With funds totaling $45.5 million,
GEAR UP receives 45 percent of total funding from the federal government
and 55 percent from other organizations.