California Educational Trust Awards

Fall 2006 | | December 21, 2006 at 5:10 pm

Background

The proposal that the United States Department of Education funded in 1999 from the State of California included a Scholarship component. The California GEAR UP Program proposed to allocate scholarships to high school seniors in the former National Early Intervention and Scholarship Program and TRIO Programs because no GEAR UP students would be graduating from high school until after the grant ended.

Subsequent to the submission of this proposal, California enacted the most generous state financial aid program in the country. ALL high school seniors who apply and meet specific income and academic criteria receive a grant to cover full fees at public universities in the state and significant resources to attend independent institutions.

Likewise, students attending community colleges receive grants as well. Based on this change in circumstance and after discussion at the California GEAR UP Governance Committee, the decision was made to change the nature of the scholarship component.

Current Program

The California GEAR UP Program’s current Educational Trust Award component has the following features:

  • GEAR UP funds are used to establish $2,000 accounts for individual middle school students; by the time a student graduates from high school, each account approximates $2,500;
  • These accounts are held by Scholarshare, the State’s tuition savings program. Every six months, students receive a report from Scholarshare about their accounts which further serves as an incentive for students to consider college;
  • The accounts are managed by the California Student Aid Commission, the state’s financial aid agency;
  • Each school in which the California GEAR UP Program provides services chooses students to receive the Trust Awards on the basis of its own criteria and through its own process. Some schools initiated essay contests and oral competitions; and,
  • Students have one year after high school graduation to enroll in a higher educational institution in order to receive their award; they can withdraw the funds in any amount for educational expenses once they provide proof of enrollment.

In our first grant cycle that concluded last August, 3,750 students received Educational Trust Awards of $2,000, or $7,500,000 in total. In the new cycle that began on September 1, 2005, 288 middle school students have received awards to date.

Impact of the Educational Trust Awards Component

  • Irrespective of the process used in selecting recipients, schools report that the Trust Awards component serves to motivate their entire middle school to achieve academically and consider college as an option after high school graduation.

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