GEAR UP program provides free college services for underserved schools

RICHLAND, WA - According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 54 percent of students from lower-income schools entered college compared to 69 percent of higher-income students. Experts said that is with regards to enrollment soon after high school graduation.

GEAR UP program provides free college services for underserved schools

Washington State University Tri-Cities GEAR UP program director, Michelle Parvinen, poses inside her office in Richland, Washington on Feburary 12, 2020. She said some services GEAR UP has includes test prep, tutoring and college preparation. (Photo/Alexandra Rios)

GEAR UP is a program designed to helps low-income students prepare to go to college, including post-secondary education. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for undergraduate programs.

The Department of Education funds the GEAR UP program. It offers activities and services to students and their families.

The program starts helping students as soon as they get into middle school and follows students into their first year of college.

Washington State University Tri-Cities GEAR UP program director, Michelle Parvinen said some services includes test prep, tutoring and college preparation.

"I think that a lot of community have such diverse population, lots of first-generation college students, lots of students coming in and facing language barriers." Parvinen said. "We are trying to break down a lot of barriers to make it available."

There is no application and no cost. Students in GEAR UP partnered schools automatically receive GEAR UP services.

"Many students come back to us and tell us this program was eye opening to them." She said. "They did not even think of college before and certainly did not fill like they would be able to do it."

The GEAR UP program helps set up college and university visits. It also provides finanical aid preparation and planning. They even have summer camps to make sure students stay on the right path to a high education.

Parvinen said students have come back after they have graduated from college very excited and wanting to give back to their community.

WSU has hired several students who have gone through the GEAR UP program. She hopes students will seek out the GEAR UP professional at their schools.

In our area, you can find the GEAR UP program at the following school districts: College Place, Dayton, Kennewick, Moses Lake, Othello, Prescott and Walla Walla.

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