October 10, 2018

MWCC, Fitchburg schools get $4.5M college readiness grant

Photo/Grant Welker
Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner.

Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, with Fitchburg Public Schools, has received a $4.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help more than 800 students navigate the path to college.

The grant will fund the Gaining Early Awareness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program to support students in Fitchburg schools via academic counseling, tutoring, mentoring, community service, college tours, financial aid and other college-readiness activities.

The grant, good for seven years, will follow all members of the classes of 2025 and 2024 enrolled in Fitchburg schools beginning in 6th and 7th grade, respectively.

The grant will support students through their high school graduation and through the first year of college for the class of 2024. A total of 837 students will be served in years one through six, and 640 will be served in year seven of the grant.

Services are expected to begin this year.

MWCC and Fitchburg Public Schools have received the grant funding for 21 straight years in four installments, but it was not funded last year, according to MWCC.

The program in Fitchburg has been successful in the past: In 2017, 95 percent of GEAR UP seniors graduated from high school, which was 8.7 percent above the baseline graduation rate.

More than 54 percent of the 2016 GEAR UP graduating class was enrolled in a post-secondary education, which was nearly 11 percent above the baseline rate.

"This long-term program has a lasting impact on the students we serve. But it is not only a boon to them, but also their family and the greater community. Everyone benefits when higher education is made more attainable," said MWCC President James Vander Hooven. "I am so pleased we have received this grant and have the opportunity to work with all our partners once again to ease the transition into post-secondary education for these students in Fitchburg. We could not do this without all of our partners, both locally and in Washington, D.C."

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