A program in the Black Belt allows students and parents in the GEAR UP Alabama program to attended community college tuition free.

The seven-year program, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is being funded by a $49 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Education. It is being coordinated through the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is expected to impact about 10,400 students from 18 school districts and 53 schools in Alabama’s Black Belt.

A meeting this week at Wallace Community College Selma will share more details about how GEAR UP works.

The program’s goal is to increase the number of students who are ready to enter and succeed in higher education.

GEAR UP Alabama targets middle school students and is in four local schools: Keith Middle-High School, Martin Middle School, Tipton-Durant Middle School and R.B. Hudson Middle School.

Tipton-Durant coordinator Mary Cofield said GEAR UP not only prepares students for college but also gives their parents a chance to further their own education.

“I think the program is very good for students. We’re targeting them at an early age. We’re trying to help them make decisions and see the relevance that what they do now will transpire into what they become and do in the future,” Cofield said.

GEAR UP Alabama keeps tabs on the students for seven years: from the start of seventh grade through the first year of college.

The program will cover the tuition of students and their parents for two-year community college. GEAR UP is trying to expand to four-year colleges and universities as well.

Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) Dr. Mark Heinrich said he is excited about the partnership with GEAR UP Alabama.

“We are committed to providing tuition assistance to parents of GEAR UP Alabama students who qualify for admissions,” Heinrich said.

Anyone wanting to learn more should attend the Parent Scholar Night at Wallace Community College Selma on Tuesday, Feb. 16 [2016] from 6-7:30 p.m.

Those who attend will learn more about tuition waivers and support systems in place to help with community college admission and financial aid. GED preparation will also be discussed.

“I love the program. It gives the parents an opportunity to go back to school and start over.” Cofield said

To learn more about GEAR UP Alabama’s participating schools, visit www.gearupal.com.

Read more: http://www.selmatimesjournal.com/2016/02/13/program-covers-community-college-tuition/#ixzz40e1AtKlh

Source: Selma Times-Journal