Hurd Gears Students Up for Success

Today, U.S. Representative Susan Davis (CA-49) and I introduced a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the grant program Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), continuing my efforts to champion educational opportunities for Texans. U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

This competitive grant program helps low-income middle and high school students prepare for college and their careers through counseling, tutoring, mentoring and scholarships. Last year, Texas was awarded more than $25 million in new yearly grant funding including new grants for Sul Ross State University (Sul Ross) and the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

  • Sul Ross State’s GEAR UP grant is funded at more than $900,000 a year. More than 1,100 GEAR UP students from the Alpine, Del Rio, Fort Davis, Fort Stockton, Marathon, Marfa, Presidio, and Terlingua school districts will be served by the seven-year grant.
  • UTEP’s GEAR UP program has served area students since its first grant cycle in 1999 and is currently funded at over $2 million a year. This program will provide comprehensive support to students in 10 Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) middle schools. UTEP partners with numerous outside organizations such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas-El Paso Branch to promote financial literacy and career development and El Paso Electric to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) events, career fairs and mentorship activities.

Ensuring access to educational opportunities for Texans of all backgrounds strengthens our economy, drives innovation across all industries and allows folks to overcome socioeconomic challenges that are influenced by education inequality. GEAR UP serves thousands of local students in my district and gives them the tools they need to become valuable contributors to our workforce. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that every student has an equal chance for success.

“Our local schools should be able to use grants to cater specifically to their students’ needs,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This legislation will bring even greater local control in the GEAR UP program, from which many students in Texas have already benefited. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure students don’t fall behind, improve college completion rates, and ensure decisions rest with those who know our students best.”

“With college dropout rates some of the highest among low-income students, programs like GEAR UP are essential to helping students who start college graduate,” said Rep. Susan Davis, Chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee. “The GEAR UP program’s proven success means expanding the program will put more low-income students who start college in a position to finish college.”

“Being in a region filled with small towns, it sometimes feels like our students’ potential can be overlooked, but GEAR UP shows that we are making a difference in their lives.  We are expanding their educational experience and closing the learning gap,” said Sul Ross GEAR UP Director Monica Saenz.

“The GEAR UP program has proven to be a catalyst for educational attainment and progression to a post-secondary degree. Our GEAR UP grant results in more students completing high school and pursuing a college degree” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., Vice President for Student Affairs at UTEP.

“We applaud Rep. Will Hurd’s continued efforts to champion GEAR UP programs for students of color across the country. San Antonio ISD (SAISD) has been the recipient of two GEAR UP grants serving the Class of 2012 and 2017. With the support of these grants, the SAISD Class of 2017 outperformed every class from 2011 through 2016 on a baseline comparison of 2011 data to the Class of 2017 performance. GEAR UP students report that much of their success is due to the dedication of GEAR UP staff, who have known and supported them since the 7th grade. The staff have followed them as they enrolled in college, enlisted in the military, and embarked on a diverse set of careers. We look forward to future GEAR UP competitions and the opportunity to submit new applications to provide thousands of additional SAISD students the college awareness and access benefits that past GEAR UP cohorts have received,” said Roxanne Rosales, San Antonio ISD GEAR UP Grant Manager.

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