University of Montevallo awarded GEAR UP grant

The United States Department of Education has awarded the University of Montevallo a seven-year, $25 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant.


The University will be partnering with five school systems in Jefferson County to serve a cohort of approximately 4,500 students from the following school systems: Bessemer City Schools, Fairfield City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, Midfield City Schools, and Tarrant City Schools. Students will begin in either the sixth or seventh grade and the grant funding will move with them as they progress through and graduate from high school.

“This grant opportunity will bring a huge benefit to this region. The students and their parents will have an opportunity to establish the qualified workforce that is needed to help our region to continue to grow and meet the needs of business and industry in the years to come,” said Jefferson County Superintendent Craig Pouncey.

The GEAR UP Jefferson County (GU-JC) initiative is designed to improve access, opportunities and outcomes for students from historically marginalized populations and underserved communities. The program will support, strengthen and expand the existing infrastructure, as well as enhance academic opportunities, increase exploration of postsecondary options and equip students and families with information and tools to plan for and access postsecondary education. In addition, enrichment and professional development opportunities will be provided for teachers to support cohort students.


With the support of U.S. Senators Doug Jones and Richard Shelby and U.S. Representatives Robert Aderholt and Gary Palmer, the University of Montevallo College of Education secured the grant. UM faculty Jennifer Alexiou-Ray, Cassie Raulston, Amy Samuels, Greg Samuels and Alvin Taylor along with Matt Walker, director of sponsored programs, wrote the grant with assistance from Kelli Holmes, director of development, UM alumnus Martin Nalls and Dean of the College of Education, Courtney Bentley.

“Every student deserves a shot at success and that starts in the classroom,” said Sen. Jones. “GEAR UP is a great program that works to ensure no student falls through the cracks and helps them reach their true potential. I congratulate the University of Montevallo on earning this $25 million grant to serve young folks across Jefferson County. With these significant new resources, the GEAR UP Jefferson County effort will open new doors for many more students.”

Rep. Palmer also commended the University, “I am proud that the University of Montevallo has been awarded this GEAR UP grant from the Department of Education. This program will enable more students the opportunity to pursue a college degree, which can change not just the immediate future of these young people, but of their families for generations to come. As the first member of my family to attend college, I know first-hand the life-altering benefits of educational opportunities like this. I appreciate the University of Montevallo and President John Stewart for their commitment to the students of our community and our state.”

“Promoting academic excellence throughout Alabama is of the utmost importance,” said Sen. Shelby. “I am proud that the University of Montevallo is receiving this significant grant, as it is imperative that we continue to support education programs that directly correlate with our state’s ability to maintain a world-class workforce. I look forward to the opportunities that this funding will present to traditionally underserved students and parents in our state, ensuring improvements and growth for years to come.”


The student goals for the GU-JC project are:

  1. Increase the academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education for GEAR UP students;
  2. Increase the rate of high school graduation and participation in postsecondary education for GEAR UP students; and
  3. Increase GEAR UP students’ and their families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing.

Grant services will be provided as collaboration between the University of Montevallo and the school systems. The grant will also have numerous partners that will assist the schools and UM in providing direct services to students to meet the grant goals and objectives.



Established in 1896, the overriding mission of the University of Montevallo, unique in higher education in Alabama, is to provide to students from throughout the state an affordable, geographically accessible, “small college” public higher educational experience of high quality, with a strong emphasis on undergraduate liberal studies and with professional programs supported by a broad base of arts and sciences, designed for their intellectual and personal growth in the pursuit of meaningful employment and responsible, informed citizenship.

 To enhance student success within a vibrant campus community, the University of Montevallo provides a premier educational experience characterized by distinguished degree programs, personalized instruction delivered by highly qualified faculty and affordable tuition. Enriched by an array of opportunities, the UM experience prepares students to enter graduate or professional school or to begin their careers with an understanding of how to succeed in a constantly changing and complex world.