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Rural Oregon Students Get College Boost from $18M Federal GEAR UP Grant

Contact: Di Saunders � Office: 503-725-5714; Cell: 971-219-6869
Source: Stephanie Carnahan �� Project Director, Oregon GEAR UP, 541-346-5761

Oregon one of 7 states awarded the grant to support college access and scholarships for low-income populations

Portland, OR, August 12, 2008 – George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System, announced today that rural Oregon high school and middle school students in 11 counties and 12 separate school districts will be eligible to receive assistance and financial support in going to college under a new six-year grant awarded to the Oregon University System (OUS).  Oregon GEAR UP launched their new efforts at a kick-off-event held in Eugene on Monday, August 11th.

The grant, from the U.S. Department of Education, will provide the Oregon GEAR UP program $18 million in funding to match partner support over a six-year period to continue building the college-going program. GEAR UP (an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a pre-college program designed to improve student learning and success at schools with higher than average numbers of low-income students. The federal government awarded grants to only 24 (8%) of the 283 applicants in this year’s competitive process, 7 to states, and the remaining to local partnerships within states.

Through Oregon GEAR UP, students in economically disadvantaged communities will be targeted for special assistance in preparing for college. The grant will support teacher development, help students improve readiness for college, and provide more than $9 million in scholarship support for qualified students. In addition, the seven universities of the Oregon University System and numerous community college campuses will work directly with the participating schools to build on existing statewide educational programs and to coordinate admission and financial aid assistance.

Oregon was first awarded a GEAR UP grant in 2002 and has been working with more than 40 schools around the state to improve college-readiness and success. The recent award is an increase of $3 million from Oregon’s previous federal grant, and will be directed this time toward 12 rural schools districts with high percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunch, a commonly used indicator of financial need.

Stephanie Carnahan, director of the Oregon GEAR UP program, said, “We are very excited about turning our focus with this new GEAR UP grant to rural communities throughout the state. The schools that have been selected are ready to make long-term, systemic changes in their schools that will increase opportunities for all students. Our underlying premise is high expectations for all students and we will back up those expectations with support, guidance, and financial resources to help more rural students prepare for college and turn their college dreams into realities.”

Pernsteiner added, “We are thankful and honored that Oregon GEAR UP was one of 7 states awarded the federal grant, which is a testament to both the strength of and compelling need for the initiative for rural Oregonians. Oregonians from rural areas currently attend and complete college at significantly lower rates than elsewhere in the state. We need to educate all Oregonians so we’re prepared to succeed in an increasingly global economy and society. This successful federal, state, and local partnership has the opportunity to turn lives around, and make lasting change in our rural communities. “

Oregon GEAR UP extends and complements current OUS efforts in student success and learning at its seven universities, through the State Board of Higher Education’s committee on Student Participation and Completion, and partnering efforts to better align our K-12 and postsecondary education systems.

In addition to the substantial federal support, Oregon partners are also contributing $18 million of in-kind support.  Partners in the project include Oregon’s public universities and community colleges, Career Information Systems; Oregon Student Assistance Commission’s ASPIRE Program; the Office of the Governor; National Educational Loan Association (NELA) Center for Student Success; Community And Shelter Assistance Corporation; Oregon Community Foundation; Science & Mathematics Initiative for Learning Enhancement (SMILE), and Education Credit Management Corporation (ECMC).

Sharon Baum, principal of North Marion Middle School, said: “What a wonderful opportunity for middle school students to have access to future windows of possibilities through the GEAR UP program. We look forward to having this grant and the possibilities it will bring!"

The August 11th kick-off event for Oregon GEAR UP convened 70 people from participating schools, colleges and universities, and various partners. Participants learned more about the goals and logistics of operating the program, and met with organizations wanting to partner with schools to make the program a success.

Oregon schools and communities involved include:




North Marion Middle and High


Azalea Middle and Brookings-Harbor High

Cottage Grove

Lincoln Middle, Cottage Grove High and Al Kennedy Alternative


Glendale High

Grants Pass

Fleming Middle and North Valley High


Irrigon Junior/Senior High School

La Pine

La Pine Middle and High

Lincoln City

Taft High

Lost River

Lost River High

Myrtle Creek-Canyonville

Coffenberry Middle and South Umpqua High


Stanfield Secondary

Sweet Home

Sweet Home Middle and High

Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of OUS, is composed of twelve members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate. For additional information about GEAR UP and OUS,, go to http://gearup.ous.edu/ or www.ous.edu 

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