CWU News

$18 Million Award Funds CWU College Prep in Rural School Districts

The US Department of Education has awarded more than $18 million to Central Washington University to help students in 11 school districts in central Washington prepare for college. CWU is the only institution of higher education in Washington State to receive the award for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). This is CWU's fourth GEAR UP grant since 2001 and its largest-ever federal grant.

The grant provides $18,155,200 for a new seven-year GEAR UP program, Project SOAR2 (Success & Opportunity through Affordability, Relevance & Rigor). CWU's director of Research and Sponsored Programs, Julie Guggino, said the SOAR2 program would build on the solid foundation of the MOSAIC2  GEAR UP grant, which focuses primarily on student success in STEM fields.

"SOAR2 encourages students to apply themselves in all disciplines, with emphasis on academic rigor, relevance and affordability," said Guggino. "SOAR helps put a college degree within reach of students by helping them stay on track for high school graduation, pursue rigorous coursework in high school, apply for financial aid and helping families understand how to support their students."

The grant will serve current sixth- and seventh-grade students in the Brewster, Easton, Highland, Lake Chelan, Manson, Omak, Oroville, Quincy, Richland, Tonasket, and Wenatchee school districts. Seventh graders will receive support through their first year in college. The funds will help provide classroom and after-school program tutors, college visits and higher education preparation materials to more than 3,000 students in these rural areas.

The two-grade cohort represents the future for eleven rural communities across a vast, rural region in north central Washington. Poverty rates, indicated by the percentage of students participating in the free and reduced lunch programs, range from 50 to 97 percent. When these students move into college, an estimated 87 percent will be the first in their families to go to college.

The grant pays for the coursework teachers need to earn the credentials necessary to offer college-in-the-high school courses. These enable students to earn college credit while still in high school. In addition, CWU teacher-education students will have the opportunity to work with students in some of the targeted school districts, gaining valuable experience in multicultural environments and in K-12 education settings. CWU teacher education majors will develop undergraduate research projects in association with the SOAR grant.

The grant was created in partnership with the Northwest Learning & Achievement Group in Wapato, and the school districts named previously. The grant was co-authored by Tracy Plouse, director, CWU MOSAIC GEAR UP; Barbara Peterson, executive director, Northwest Learning & Achievement Group; and Guggino.

For more information about GEAR UP at CWU, go to

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,