OLYMPIA - Gov. Christine Gregoire recently announced that Washington State will receive a six-year, $21 million grant to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college.

The state GEAR UP grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, will be administered by the Higher Education Coordinating Board in partnership with the University of Washington and the Washington Education Foundation. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

"I am pleased that Washington has received this generous grant from the Department of Education," Gregoire said. "A college education is a critical tool our citizens need to compete in the global economy. This grant will help more of our students attend and succeed in college, students who might otherwise get lost in the shuffle."

A primary focus of the new grant will be providing intensive tutoring, mentoring, and college/career counseling to 1,000 low-income seventh graders throughout their middle and high school years. Participating students who graduate from high school and enroll in Washington colleges and universities will receive scholarships to help pay college costs. The state will select the targeted communities for the program this fall and will begin serving students in January 2006.

In addition, the new grant will fund other initiatives to help low-income students prepare for and succeed in college:

- UW students will tutor and mentor low-income students participating in the Washington State Achievers Program, administered by the Washington Education Foundation.

- UW faculty will offer professional development programs and materials to help teachers improve classroom strategies and student learning.

- An annual four-week honors academy and one-week summer institute at the UW, combined with field trips to other college campuses, will expose low-income students to the college experience.

"We're committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to succeed in college, regardless of how much their family earns or whether their parents went to college," said Jim Sulton, executive director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board. "This grant will help us level the playing field for more than 1,000 low-income students and prepare them for college success."

National studies have shown that students from low-income families are significantly less likely to be enrolled in college preparatory programs and to attend college than their higher-income peers.

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