American Indian, underrepresented, and economically disadvantaged students from across South Dakota will continue to benefit in future years from more than $30 million in federal matching grants.
Multiyear grants have been awarded to two state Department of Education initiatives that are focused on informing, preparing, transitioning and retaining target student groups at the postsecondary level.
South Dakota received $1.5 million this year as a continuation of the five-year College Access Challenge Grant. South Dakota was also awarded a grant for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP initiative. The GEAR UP grant will total about $3.5 million a year, renewable for seven years.
“These programs let American Indian and economically disadvantaged students know how much we value their participation in higher education,” said Roger Campbell, director of Indian Education for the South Dakota Department of Education. “We want to see these young people complete some sort of education after high school, whether it’s a two-year or four-year degree.”
While the two state initiatives have similar goals, such as increasing the number of American Indian students from South Dakota to graduate from high school and enroll in postsecondary programs, they employ different methods to attain those goals.
The College Access Challenge Grant works with 32 high schools and 14 institutions of higher education in South Dakota to provide postsecondary information and assistance to families of economically disadvantaged students. Students and families can learn about and get help with the college and financial aid application processes, college entrance test preparation and other services.
GEAR UP targets 6,600 students per year in grades 6-12, seeking to increase the success rate of those students at the college and technical institute level by establishing partnerships among middle schools, high schools, institutions of higher education and community organizations.
South Dakota was one of 19 states selected through a competitive review process for the GEAR UP grant.