Tennessee Receives $24.5 Million to Boost College Access Statewide

Tuesday, October 03, 2017 | 03:08pm

Contact: Courtney Souter

NASHVILLE – October 3—The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Tennessee Higher Education Commission a $24.5 million grant to increase the number of low-income students in Tennessee who are accessing and succeeding in higher education. The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant will provide Tennessee $3.5 million in resources annually over seven years.

"Tennessee has become a national model for college access and success and GEAR UP has played a huge role in those efforts,” said Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. “The strong partnerships that we’ll build with local communities through GEAR UP will continue to move us closer to the Drive to 55. Most importantly, this grant will allow us to connect directly with students and assist them on their journey to a college degree."

Tennessee’s grant, operating under the name GEAR UP TN, will provide academic readiness and college access services to a cohort of 3,250 students in participating schools. Services are anticipated to begin in Spring 2018 for the Class of 2023 cohort. Students in the GEAR UP TN cohort will receive tutoring, career guidance, comprehensive college advising, and mentoring that will continue through their first year of postsecondary education.

Additionally, approximately 2,750 high school seniors at the participating high schools will receive GEAR UP TN support during each year of the grant. Statewide services, including resources for fostering a college-going culture and a college access and success website, www.CollegeforTN.org, will serve over 35,000 students across Tennessee.

Tennessee has received two prior GEAR UP grants, beginning with a 2005 grant that resulted in a 22.8% increase in college-going rates at participating high schools. Currently, GEAR UP TN is working with the Class of 2018 in 15 counties as they apply to college this school year. Already, counties served by the current GEAR UP TN grant have shown impressive results, including over 9 percentage points of growth in college-going rates since 2012. Tennessee was one of ten states awarded a GEAR UP grant as part of the 2017 competition.


The Tennessee Higher Education Commission was created in 1967 by the Tennessee General Assembly.  The Commission develops, implements, and evaluates postsecondary education policies and programs in Tennessee while coordinating the state’s systems of higher education. There are nine public universities, two special purpose institutes, 13 community colleges, and 27 colleges of applied technology in Tennessee that educate nearly 250,000 students annually.