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President Clinton: Helping Disadvantaged Youth

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National Economic Council


May 19, 2000

Today, President Clinton will visit Sulzberger Middle School to highlight GEAR UP, a Clinton-Gore initiative that provides mentoring, tutoring and financial support to keep at-risk students on the track to college. He will visit the first class of Philadelphia GEAR UP students and present a GEAR UP student with a 21st Century Scholar Certificate. In addition, he will announce $185 million in 21st Century Community Learning Center grants to fund after-school programs in 900 schools. He will also call upon Congress to fully fund his education initiatives. This year, Republicans are threatening to cut the President's important education initiatives, including GEAR UP and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

HELPING DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS ENTER COLLEGE THROUGH GEAR UP. GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, was first proposed by President Clinton in his 1998 State of the Union address and enacted with broad bipartisan support in October 1998. It is a initiative to give hope, raise expectations, and create college opportunities for disadvantaged children. It supports partnerships of schools, colleges and universities, and community organizations to strengthen academics and tutoring, raise expectations, provide college visits and counseling, and often provide college scholarships to nearly 450,000 middle school students this year. It also funds state efforts to promote college awareness and provide scholarships for needy students. Over 1,000 organizations are GEAR UP partners, including colleges and universities, libraries, arts organizations, and chambers of commerce. Next academic year, GEAR UP will serve over 750,000 students, and President Clinton requested $325 million in FY 2001 to serve 1.4 million children. GEAR UP was inspired by businessman Eugene Lang's I Have a Dream Foundation and also modeled on Project GRAD.

PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL PRESENT GEAR UP CERTIFICATES TO PHILADELPHIA SEVENTH-GRADERS. The 21st Century Certificates raise college aspirations and provide early notice of the substantial federal assistance available for college costs, helping families understand that college is within reach. Representative Chaka Fattah was the first to see the potential of 21st Century Scholar Certificates to inspire at-risk students and the leading congressional advocate for the enactment of GEAR UP.

  • Low-income and minority students are at high risk of failing to enter college: Only half of low-income high school graduates immediately enroll in college or trade school, as do four-fifths of high-income graduates.
  • Low-income, African-American, and Hispanic students who read one piece of information on financial aid are 15 to 23 percentage points more likely to take college entrance examinations and apply for college admission than their peers who didn't read any information. (National Center for Education Statistics, Access to Postsecondary Education for 1992 High School Graduates, 1997.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL ALSO ANNOUNCE $185 MILLION IN AFTER-SCHOOL GRANTS. Today, President Clinton will also announce $185 million in new grants for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These grants will support after-school and summer school programs in 48 states. Funding from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative provides safe, high-quality after-school and summer school programs for more than 850,000 students in rural and urban communities nationwide. Summer school and after-school programs help give students extra support and assistance to master challenging academic standards and allow school districts to raise standards the right way — by ensuring that all students can meet them.

PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL CALL ON CONGRESS TO INVEST IN EDUCATION, INCLUDING GEAR UP AND 21ST CENTURY COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTERS. In order to pay for risky and fiscally irresponsible tax cuts, the Congressional Republican budget proposes to cut investments in domestic priorities $29 billion below the President's level, an average cut of 9 percent. For education this results in insufficient funding for urgent school repair, smaller class sizes, to strengthen accountability and turn around low-performing schools, or for other important school reform efforts. For example:

  • President Clinton requested $325 million for GEAR UP next year to help build pathways to college for 1.4 million students. The Senate plan provides only $225 million and the House only $200 million for this initiative, denying between 400,000 and 650,000 disadvantaged students this opportunity.
  • President Clinton asked Congress to more than double funding for 21st Century Learning Centers, to $1 billion, to triple the number of students served to 2.5 million. The need for after-school programs remain great, and this year more than 1,000 high-quality grant applications could not be funded due to a lack of resources.


GEAR UP is creating college opportunities for at-risk youth.

  • Enacted in 1998, GEAR UP funds partnerships of high-poverty middle schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, and business to work with entire grade levels of students. The partnerships provide tutoring, mentoring, information on college preparation and financial aid, an emphasis on core academic preparation and, in some cases, scholarships.
  • GEAR UP works with students starting in 7th grade or earlier through high school graduation because research shows that students taking challenging courses (including algebra) in middle school are much more likely to succeed in high school and go on to college.
  • In its first year, GEAR UP is serving more nearly 450,000 students nationwide. Over 1,000 organizations are GEAR UP partners, including colleges and universities, libraries, arts organizations, local chambers of commerce, the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Wal-Mart, Unisys, and the New York Times Education Program. Next academic year, GEAR UP will serve over 750,000 students and President Clinton has requested $325 million in FY 2001 to serve 1.4 million children.

The College Opportunity Gap Is Real.

  • Only 47 percent of low-income high school graduates immediately enroll in college or trade school, compared to 82 percent of high-income students. (National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 1999)
  • Only 18 percent of African-Americans and 19 percent of Hispanic high school graduates earn a bachelor's degree by their late twenties, compared to 35 percent of whites. (NCES, Condition of Education 1999)
  • The opportunity gap persists regardless of academic preparation: 22 percent of college-qualified high school graduates with low family incomes don't pursue post-secondary education, compared to only 4 percent of high-income graduates. (NCES, Access to Postsecondary Education for 1992 High School Graduates.)

GEAR UP's Approach Is Unique Among Federal Programs. GEAR UP complements existing federal programs by:

  • Starting earlier. GEAR UP partnerships start no later than the 7th grade because research shows that students who take challenging coursework in middle school, including algebra, are far more likely to succeed in high school and college.
  • Staying with children through high school graduation. GEAR UP provides long-term mentoring over a period of six or more years, helping children stay on track for college, and often providing scholarships when they reach college.
  • Transforming schools. GEAR UP partnerships work with entire grades of students to transform their schools. Services include mentoring, tutoring, strengthening curriculum, teacher professional development, summer and after-school academic and enrichment programs, and college visits.
  • Supporting college scholarships. Some GEAR UP partnerships provide college scholarships, which research shows to be particularly important in preventing drop-outs among low-income students.
  • Leveraging local resources. GEAR UP encourages colleges and other community organizations to partner with low-income middle schools and leverages non-federal resources with a one-for-one match requirement.
  • Bolstering state efforts. GEAR UP also supports state early college preparation and scholarship efforts.

GEAR UP is Modeled on Proven Programs. Evaluation research on existing programs demonstrates the value of and the need for the GEAR UP approach. Evaluation research on existing programs demonstrates the value of and the need for the GEAR UP approach.

  • I Have a Dream provides an entire grade of low-income students with intensive mentoring, academic support, and a promise of public and private aid for college tuition. Roughly 75 percent of Chicago IHAD students in the class of 1996 graduated from high school, as did only 37 percent of students in the control group.
  • Project GRAD is a college-school-community partnership to improve inner-city education. Students receive curricular, counseling, and scholarship opportunities to bring college within reach. Project GRAD has produced dramatic results on a large scale. The percentage of middle school students passing the Texas statewide math test has tripled from 21 percent in 1995 to 63 percent in 1998. The number of students graduating from one Project GRAD high school increased by 64 percent between 1988 and 1998, while the overall district number declined by 7 percent, and five times more students are going to college.

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