Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

GEAR UP Kentucky

Authorized by Congress in 1998, GEAR UP (an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a competitive federal grant program designed to increase the high school graduation and college enrollment and success of students in low-income communities.

In October 2018, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) was awarded a seven-year, $24.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to serve at least 10,000 middle and high school students in at least 10 school districts. This is the fourth GEAR UP state grant that has been administered through CPE.

Working with Kentucky’s schools and postsecondary institutions

Montage of GUK activities

GEAR UP Kentucky (GUK) provides services to two cohorts of students who began 7th grade in 2019 and 2020, totaling more than 3,000 students in the following 12 school districts:

GUK also serves a new class of high school seniors in participating schools each year and continues to provide services and support to “GEAR UP Scholar” students as they transition to and through their first year of study at the following 9 partner colleges and universities:

Engaging students’ key influencers 

GEAR UP Kentucky services are strategically aligned to the Four Pillars of Student Success, a research-based, theoretical framework used to engage, develop, and mobilize students and their key influencers in pursuit of student success.

GUK provides the following services to participating students and their key influencers:

  1. Self – customized college and career readiness curriculum, advising, college readiness assessments, campus experiences, and peer leadership development programs.
  2. Family – college planning and success resources and events, advising and support, campus experiences, and leadership development opportunities.
  3. Institution – classroom technology, college readiness assessments, peer learning community, professional development, and leadership development opportunities.
  4. Community – statewide communications campaign, statewide annual conference, partnership and network development, and student and parent voice initiatives.

These pillars, developed by Dr. Aaron Thompson, are inextricably interconnected. In an environment with both high expectations and support from all pillars, students are more likely to succeed. Without these supports and expectations, students are less likely to establish sufficient goals or maintain a commitment to postsecondary education.

Helping Kentucky meet its 60x30 goal 

In addition to working directly with participating students, families and schools to increase successful transition to and through postsecondary education in low-income communities, GEAR UP Kentucky partners with other relevant organizations such as KHEAA, Kentucky Campus Compact and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence to help promote college-going statewide and increase access to college readiness and transition resources, information and support.  

For more information about GEAR UP Kentucky, visit

Last Updated: 1/16/2022