Skip to Content Bruce Rauner, Governor, State of Illinois

Welcome to Illinois GEAR UP!GEAR UP logo

As the state’s college access and financial aid agency, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has one of the largest statewide college outreach programs in the country, dedicated to helping Illinois high school students and their families make more informed choices about postsecondary education. Consistent with our ISAC mission, the Illinois GEAR UP program (ILGU) is focused on making college accessible and affordable for Illinois students. Through ILGU and with our partners, we are working to help raise the expectations of ILGU students about what they can achieve, prepare ILGU students for success in postsecondary education, and build a self-sustaining college-going in our partner schools.

What is GEAR UP?

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federal discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides grants to states and partnerships at high-need middle and high schools. State grants are competitive matching grants that must include an early intervention component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students.

About the Illinois GEAR UP (ILGU) Program

ISAC was awarded a seven-year GEAR UP grant in late 2016. Over the course of the next seven years, ISAC and its program partners will use a cohort model to provide direct services to approximately 30,500 students in 25 middle schools and 25 high schools across Illinois. A full list of participating schools will be posted as soon as it is finalized. All 7th graders at participating middle schools will receive services, and the program will follow the first cohort of 7th grade students through their first year of college. As soon as the first cohort of 7th graders transitions to high school, the high school will begin to receive services under the ILGU program. In addition, each year, the next class of 7th graders will be added to the program and receive services for the duration of the grant period.

What does ILGU do?

ILGU will offer the following services to students and families:

  • Assistance in developing non-cognitive skills and pro-college behaviors that can assist students in making successful transitions and improve their chances of success in college.
  • Assistance with academic preparation to prevent remediation as students transition
  • College and career exploration
  • Assistance with the college planning and financial aid process—including help with college applications and assistance in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Support in making the transition from middle school to high school and high school to college
  • Increasing the level of family engagement in the student’s planning process
  • School enrichment activities for students and parents

ILGU school partners will receive direct assistance and other resources to support their GEAR UP cohort and to assist them in building long-term, in-school capacity for a sustainable college-going culture:

  • Additional staffing to support ILGU initiatives, including a full time GEAR UP advisor at each school
  • Funding for capacity-building, professional development, and student enrichment activities
  • Online tools and software as well as programmatic technical assistance to support ILGU initiatives in each school.
  • Curriculum resources, including guides and tools
  • Support for parent/family outreach initiatives
  • Communications materials for schools to use in promoting and implementing the program

ILGU Partners

 ISAC has long partnered with local, state and national entities to improve college access and outreach. Similarly, in addition to ISAC, the state grantee, and the middle and high schools participating in the program, ILGU will include numerous partnerships to deliver effective services to students, families and schools. ILGU partners to-date are:

Questions about ILGU? Contact Angela.Panateri@isac.Illinois.gov