FARMINGTON – The US Department of Education has announced that it has rejected this year’s grant for Maine Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) run by the University of Maine at Farmington and the company based Syntiro at Readfield.
As a result, GEAR UP of Maine is unfunded, and the UMF plans to end the program by fall 2022, when the pre-existing grant expires.
Since 1999, GEAR UP has helped thousands of “students and families from economically disadvantaged backgrounds” (especially those in rural communities) prepare for college or other post-secondary education programs. They do this by offering students in grades 7 through 1 post-secondary “tutoring, mentoring, academic and career guidance, and exposure to college campuses.”
According to a press release, the Maine congressional delegation said the DOE “did not provide a rationale as to why it did not prioritize GEAR UP Maine over an unstated state program. “. The delegation is made up of the Senses. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-1) and Jared Golden (D-2).
The delegation co-wrote a letter to DOE Secretary Miguel Cardona expressing “concerns about (DOE’s) rejection of the… funding request.”
They specifically take issue with “indications that in its award decisions the ministry appeared to deviate from its statutory requirements” to prioritize funding for educational opportunity programs that were “successful” prior to 2008, rather only “new”.
In addition, the DOE did not meet the estimates it had previously made for GEAR UP funding and rewards, the delegation said.
Rather, the DOE announced that it had only awarded grants to four programs for a total of $ 14 million in funding.
This rejection, the delegation wrote, “will leave Maine as one of seven states with no further GEAR UP funding going forward.”
In a statement, UMF President Edward Serna thanked the delegation for “inquiring into the apparent inconsistencies in the process of the US Department of Education and for making sure we have a chance to help more young Maine reach their full potential through this proven program.
“As part of our commitment to supporting the success of all students – especially those who come from rural communities, the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education or otherwise historically underserved – the University of Maine at Farmington is proud to be associated with the delivery of the GEAR UP program since 1999, ”Serna wrote. “During this time, GEAR UP has transformed the future of thousands of Maine students by raising their aspirations and preparing them to attend and complete their education affordably.”
GEAR UP would have served 6,500 students over the next seven years that the grant was supposed to fund had it not been withdrawn, Serna said.
The congressional delegation is asking Cardona and the DOE to answer their questions about these inconsistencies. The DOE has yet to respond.
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