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OU Announces $86 Million Initiative to Benefit Oklahoma Students’ College and Career Readiness

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OU Announces $86 Million Initiative to Benefit Oklahoma Students’ College and Career Readiness

Two women and three men standing in front of a display made of pencils with the OU logo in the middle

Representatives from the University of Oklahoma hosted a celebration of a new initiative, “GEAR UP for LIFE,” on Nov. 9. The program is a partnership between OU’s K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal and 28 under-resourced schools across 23 primarily rural school districts in Oklahoma to help students and their families prepare for college and workforce training.


OU’s K20 Center, a statewide research and development center, received a $43 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, with equal matching funds from grant partners, including Oklahoma’s Promise program, totaling more than $86 million to implement GEAR UP for LIFE. The “GEAR UP” program, which stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs,” began through the U.S. Department of Education in 1998. It is one of the largest national programs focused on increasing low-income students’ college and career readiness.

View of a stage with a man speaking as streamers fall from the ceiling

“The GEAR UP program empowers students for success in college and beyond, and OU’s K20 Center has a proven track record of building innovative partnerships with Oklahoma schools, teachers and community leaders to improve student outcomes,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “The GEAR UP for LIFE program will enhance our state’s workforce pipeline and fuel economic prosperity, but most importantly, it will have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact that will change the lives of generations of Oklahomans.”


“Programs like GEAR UP and TRIO, which I have been a longtime champion of, ensure Oklahoma’s low-income students and families have access to the education and workforce training that is vital to the economic prosperity of our great state,” said Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04). “I am proud to congratulate OU on this significant grant, which will allow even more Oklahoma students the opportunity to achieve high-paying, high-skill jobs in their home state.”

Man and a woman sitting together smiling as they look at a speaker on stage

In this newest program, GEAR UP for LIFE, “LIFE” is short for “Learning and Investigating Future Education.” The program will directly impact 8,258 sixth- or seventh-grade Oklahoma students in the participating schools. The program will follow students for seven years, throughout and beyond high school graduation.


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