WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman James Langevin and David Cicilline today joined the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner and The College Crusade to announce a new federal grant that could provide up to $24.5 million over the next seven years to help public school students across the state succeed in school, prepare for college, and earn a postsecondary degree.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant program is designed to help economically disadvantaged students, starting in the middle grades, prepare academically, socially, and financially for success in college.  Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the GEAR UP grant will provide Rhode Island with $3.5 million per year for seven years, subject to federal appropriations.  As a result of the grant funding, approximately 3,500 students per year from Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket, and Cranston will benefit from college-readiness and success services from sixth grade through the end of their first year of college.

In Rhode Island, GEAR UP provides advisory services, college readiness programming, family engagement programs, and scholarship support to participating students.  For nearly two decades, The College Crusade has developed and implemented RI GEAR UP programs and services in Rhode Island as part of the state’s overall education strategy to increase high school graduation and college-attendance rates.

“I am proud to have helped secure GEAR UP funding for Rhode Island.  This is a multi-faceted program that follows kids as they grow and helps them prepare to succeed in the classroom and beyond,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee which oversees federal spending on education programs and who led efforts to secure $340 million for GEAR UP in the Senate FY2018 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations Bill.   “The College Crusade is an outstanding organization that helps young people from low-income families prepare for college and succeed once they get there.  This federal funding will enable them to expand their efforts and reach more students.”

“Every child, regardless of the neighborhood where they live, deserves a first-class education and the opportunity to succeed in a career of their choice,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “This federal award will allow The College Crusade of Rhode Island to open a life-changing door to college for more students who might otherwise never have considered it.”

“Students should be set up to succeed regardless of their socioeconomic status, and the Rhode Island GEAR UP Program empowers disadvantaged youth to achieve academic success despite the obstacles they face,” said Congressman Langevin. “This funding  will ensure GEAR UP can prepare more students for college, and I congratulate College Crusade on receiving this competitive grant.”

“Preparing our young people for the careers of the 21st Century is one of the most effective ways we have to position Rhode Island to succeed in the coming years,” said Congressman Cicilline. “These resources will help ready students to thrive in college and graduate with the skills they need to compete in a high-tech economy.  All Rhode Islanders benefit when our workforce is supported, and I am committed to expanding federal investments that will help the next generation in Rhode Island get ahead.” 

“The College Crusade does tremendous work to grow a college-going culture throughout the state,” said Brenda Dann-Messier, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education. “They understand that change is really about engaging students and families, understanding their academic and career goals, and guiding them to realize their potential.”

“On behalf of our many hard-working students and their families, I am deeply thankful to Senator Reed and our Congressional delegation for securing this significant investment in college readiness for Rhode Island,” said Andrew Bramson, president and CEO of The College Crusade. “We are thrilled to continue providing innovative programs and services that keep the young people of our state on the path to postsecondary education and degree completion.”

Under the new grant award, The College Crusade will deploy a team of 29 full-time advisors at 35 middle and high schools and the state’s three public colleges and universities to provide personalized educational support for students and to motivate them to take rigorous courses, graduate from high school on time, and make a successful transition to college and career.  The College Crusade will also provide a continuum of extended learning opportunities for these students across four domains – academic support, social and personal development, postsecondary preparation, and career exploration.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Higher Education, The College Crusade of Rhode Island’s GEAR UP program effectively improved students’ chances of enrolling in college by more than 37 percent.