Utah State University has won a $15.5 million federal grant to help prepare thousands of at-risk students for college.
Over the next seven years, USU'S Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services will partner with a number of groups to help nearly 3,000 students in six Utah school districts, three Utah charter schools and one Nevada district prepare for college.
The students, now in grades 5, 6 and 7, will participate in the program through high school and, in some cases, through their freshman years of college.
The funding will come from a GEAR UP Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Utah districts with schools participating in the program include Tooele, Uintah, Logan, Davis, South Sanpete and North Sanpete.
Dual Immersion Academy in Salt Lake City and two American Preparatory Academy schools will also participate.
"In these schools, in some cases, fewer than 5 percent of the children are going to college," said Yolanda Flores Niemann, a USU psychology professor. "Schools are doing a fantastic job with what resources they have. What we are bringing to the table are added resources. We're giving the schools the ability to have more hands-on impact with each child. ... They will start to see themselves as future college students."
In order to take part, at least half of a school's students had to qualify for free or reduced price meals, Flores Niemann said.
As part of the STARS! (science, technology, arithmetic, reading students) GEAR UP Partnership, site coordinators will work at participating schools, counseling students on how to prepare for college and pulling together other parts of the program.
Parents will also be invited to workshops on college readiness and financial aid, and students will visit USU.
"If we get students on campus early and often, they envision themselves as college-going students," said Eric Packenham, project director.
A number of companies and groups will partner with USU on the project, contributing another $15.5 million, largely in services.
For example, SureScore will train teachers in how to best teach skills such as test taking, note taking and studying, Packenham said. Texas Instruments will introduce a math/technology program into the schools and several other partners will focus on teaching science with technology.
"The grant will allow us to redouble our efforts to get students to focus on post secondary education opportunities and see that they are capable of being successful after high school," said Marshal Garrett, superintendent of the Logan City school district, in a news release.
Additional partners include Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium, the Space Dynamics Laboratory, the Ute Indian Tribe, The USU Access and Diversity Center, and the USU School of Teacher Education and Leadership."