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About Gear UP TN

What is GEAR UP TN?

GEAR UP TN is a federally funded college access program that aims to expand the college-going culture in Tennessee and empower students to succeed. Funded through a seven-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, GEAR UP TN works with Collaboratives in 15 counties across the state to promote college readiness and success. These 15 Collaboratives receive direct services through the GEAR UP TN grant. GEAR UP TN also aims to provide educators, parents, and students across the state with resources and information on the college-going process.

The GEAR UP TN grant is administered by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's Office of P-16 Initiatives which also houses a number of other initiatives focused on college access and success. For information on other Office of P-16 Initiatives programs, click here.


How does GEAR UP TN work?

In spring 2012, the United States Department of Education awarded a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in the amount of $29,590,281. GEAR UP, a seven-year discretionary grant program, aims to increase the number of low-income, first generation students enrolling and succeeding in college. Tennessee’s program, GEAR UP TN, began implementation in fall 2012, with direct services across the state beginning in January 2013. The 2012 awarded grant is Tennessee’s second GEAR UP project.

GEAR UP TN funds sub-grants to 15 GEAR UP TN Collaboratives across the state and provides direct services in 88 schools. The program is structured to serve approximately 7,500 students in the Class of 2018, currently in 9th grade, and 5,000 seniors in GEAR UP TN high schools each year. The Class of 2018 cohort began receiving services in 7th grade and will continue to be served by the program through their first year of postsecondary education. Direct services provided to students and their families include academic support, mentoring, advising, college and job site visits, family engagement, financial aid counseling, and personalized college planning sessions. Sub-grant funding also provides for professional development for teachers, counselors, and school administration on best practices for expanding and sustaining a college access culture. 

During the 2013 – 2014 academic year, GEAR UP TN provided services to 8,111 cohort students, 6,257 seniors, 1,041 educators, and 18,951 parents and guardians. Over the lifetime of the grant, the program will serve a total of 37,500 students.


Click here for a list of GEAR UP TN direct service schools.

Mission, Goals, and Objectives


GEAR UP TN aims to expand the college-going culture in Tennessee. By using an empowerment model that recognizes the assets and needs of local communities, GEAR UP TN looks to shift the state’s educational culture. We aim to develop long-term, successful partnerships to support students in reaching college and providing them with the resources to succeed in college.


The goals of GEAR UP TN are to:

  1. Increase the academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education for GEAR UP students.
  2. Increase the rates of high school graduation and enrollment in postsecondary education for GEAR UP students.
  3. Increase GEAR UP students’ and their families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing.


GEAR UP TN’s programmatic objectives are to:

  1. Increase student academic achievement and course completion.
  2. Increase student performance on college entrance exams.
  3. Increase student high school graduation.
  4. Increase student postsecondary participation and success.
  5. Increase student and family educational expectations.
  6. Increase student and family knowledge of and access to financial assistance for postsecondary education.
  7. Increase parent and community engagement in activities associated with student preparation for college.
  8. Increase educator content-area knowledge and understanding.