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University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center Receives Grants to Help Oklahoma schools

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Inside OU

K20 Center Receives Grants

to Help Oklahoma Schools


You may have heard that OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and the K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal announced that we were awarded three U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP Partnership Grants. The K20 Center is a statewide educational research and professional development center that works directly with students, teachers, schools and communityleaders to improve student learning in the state of Oklahoma.


But do you know what the GEAR UP program does for Oklahomans?

The U.S. Department of Education's Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, is a college access program that works with high-poverty schools, which means they must have a free and reduced lunch rate of 50% or higher, with many of our partners approaching the high 90%s.


Students who are in 6th and 7th grade start getting information on colleges. This may seem early, but by investing in students earlier and providing the knowledge and resources to better understand the benefits of a college degree, they are more likely to achieve a dream of a college education that they may not have even imagined.


These Gear UP awards are competitive seven-year grants. Out of nearly 160 applications submitted, only 60 state and partnership grants were funded across the country; K20 got three of these.


Altogether, the grants add up to more than $68 million, with stakeholders, including school, community and state partners, securing an additional $68 million of matching funds for a grand total of $137,006,776. This investment will impact 12,222 students in 46 schools across Oklahoma through a range of services to students, families, and schools.


The K20 Center already had two previous GEAR UP projects that reached 7,886 students from 41 partner schools in both rural and urban high-poverty ethnically diverse schools.


The successes from those projects saw increased college enrollment among cohort students, increased enrollment in AP College prep classes, increased ACT scores and increased financial preparation for college enrollment.


President Gallogly set a goal of doubling research in the next five years. The GEAR UP grants will help with meeting that goal, and shows how a great public university can impact the state. In the short term, the grants will have an economic impact by creating 92 new jobs, and in the long term will create thousands more college graduates who will positively impact Oklahoma’s economy for years to come. Studies show that a college graduate will earn a million dollars more in their work career than a high school graduate.


What will the K20 center do with these grants?

The K20 Center received three grant awards from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The three grants serve three different types of communities in Oklahoma.

GEAR UP for the FUTURE will impact 4,729 students found in 11 large non-urban Oklahoma school districts.

GEAR UP for MY SUCCESS focuses on 23 rural Oklahoma schools and will impact over 4,000 students across the state of Oklahoma. An interesting characteristic of this cohort is that over 20% of the students are Native American.

The final project, GEAR UP OKC, will serve 12 urban middle schools in partnership with the Oklahoma City Public Schools impacting over 3,000 students.


The goal of each of these projects is to:

  • increase cohort academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education
  • increase high school graduation and postsecondary education of cohort students
  • increase student educational expectations, and students’ and families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation and financing.


These services will be based on best-practices discovered through K20’s research.  However, each school will have a strong voice in how those practices are implemented within their school.


Some examples include:

  • Professional development for school leaders, teacher and school counselors on how to effectively support first generation students in their learning
  • Career exploration and mentoring with business and industry partners
  • Working with teachers to provide students with student-centered authentic instruction
  • Providing students with college experiences, such as campus visits or summer camps, in which they begin to explore what postsecondary education fits their needs and interests
  • Working with the student and their families as they begin to explore how to pay for college