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San Antonio Independent School District Gears Up for College

By Stacy Andell for

San Antonio Schools held two college fairs as part of its GEAR UP program to help the class of 2012 get ready for college.

GEAR UP Fairs in the San Antonio Area

Current Sixth Grade students and their families attended college fairs at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Participants learned about basic college requirements, entrance examinations, and how to find financial aid. To add a little local flavor to the occasion, school cheerleaders and mariachis performed and refreshments were served.


Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federally funded grant given to states to increase the number of low income students enrolling in college. The grant provides funding for six years in order to promote one class of students in college readiness from sixth grade through twelfth grade. Some GEAR UP funds go toward college scholarships for needy students.

GEAR UP isn’t just for schools. Local businesses and community groups, including those with religious affiliations, can partner with local schools to provide college information for students. Each school or organization, however, is expected to match federal funding dollar for dollar, meaning that the non-federal contribution must be at least 50 percent.

Student Selection

GEAR UP funds can be used on a variety of student population groups by focusing on either a “cohort” or “priority students.” Each cohort must satisfy one of the following requirements:

• All of the students in a particular grade level at a participating school that has a seventh grade and in which at least 50 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch under the National School Lunch Act.
• All of the students in a particular grade level who reside in public housing.

Priority students, on the other hand, are students who are eligible to be counted under one of the following laws:

• The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (Title 1)
• Free or reduced price lunches under the National School Lunch Act
• Assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Title 1 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996)

Private school students also have a chance to participate if they meet any of the above requirements. In order to do so, a local education agency must act on their behalf and either an institute of higher learning or a local education agency is in charge of their finances. For private school students to participate, the private school itself must also be a partner in the grant.

Opportunities for the San Antonio Independent School District

The district has a lot to gain from the GEAR UP program in targeting students and their parents early on in the college decision making process. Beginning with sixth grade students, the program allows parents and students to develop gradually in undertaking the many responsibilities that come with applying for and paying for college. The class of 2012 is on its way to making a smooth transition into university education.

For more information on San Antonio Schools visit

About the Author: Stacy Andell is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. Stacy has a nose for research and writes stimulating news and views on school issues. For more on San Antonio schools visit

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