JEFFERSON CITY - Thanks to a large federal grant announced Wednesday, students in a variety of Missouri middle schools will receive, in total, millions of dollars worth of extra tutoring and scholarships.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded $7.5 million to Missouri's Higher Education Department for their "GEAR UP" program.
The program's goal is to shore up middle school education and opportunities in schools which have a below-average percentage of students going to college. Mentoring, information about college admissions, and financial assistance are given to middle schoolers through partnerships with Missouri's universities.
Although the Missouri program is already one year old, the grant is the first federal funding it has received and the first funding of any significance. "We probably are investing currently $100,000 per year in early awareness and outreach activities," said Dr. John Wittstruck, associate commissioner for Higher Education.
The state GEAR UP grant will provide Missouri approximately $1.5 million every year for the next five years, fifteen times the program's current annual budget. "This is really going to jump start in a significant way what we're able to do," Wittstruck said.
The program targets schools with higher than average dropout rates, and those located in poorer communities. It is currently active in 20 schools across Missouri, but only 2 of these schools are outside of St. Louis and Kansas City. The Higher Education Department plans to recruit more schools to participate now that it has the money to support them.