The office of College Access Programs, which is part of the Academic Strategies division, houses two federally funded programs: the state’s College Access Challenge Grant (CACG) Program and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (Oregon GEAR UP). These two programs work in concert to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented students, namely low-income, who are prepared to enter and succeed in college. The College Access Challenge Grant was awarded to the State of Oregon, and the Oregon University System coordinates the grant activity for the state, in collaboration with all postsecondary sectors in the state.

The Director of College Access Programs also works collaboratively with Board, campus, and state leadership on initiatives related to student access and success.

Oregon GEAR UP: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs 

College. It’s not a dream. It’s a plan.Oregon GEAR UP logo

That’s the motto of Oregon GEAR UP, and it guides the program’s work with middle and high schools around the state. 

Oregon GEAR UP is a collaborative program that works with school districts, colleges and universities, and partner organizations across the state to increase the number of low-income Oregon students who pursue and succeed in postsecondary education. A federal GEAR UP grant has supported activities in Oregon since 2002, serving 83 schools in 38 communities. In addition, The Ford Family Foundation is funding 10 rural school districts in Curry, Coos and Douglas counties until 2017.

Oregon GEAR UP supports schools in their efforts to set high academic expectations, promote early awareness of college opportunities, and engage students in college and career planning. Grants of $30,000 to $40,000 are awarded annually to each district. Alongside the grants, GEAR UP pro­vides the districts with technical assistance and coordinates a variety of statewide activities that support the development of successful school-based college readiness initiatives.

Middle and high school staff in these districts design and carry out most of the program’s activities. Partner organizations provide curriculum sup­port, mentorship programs and professional development opportunities to the schools, as well as college campus-based events that expose students to college life.

Go to Oregon GEAR UP's official website, for more on opportunities, grant activities and participating schools.


College Access Challenge Grant (CACG)

The College Access Challenge Grant (CACG) Program was a statewide college access initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Education and coordinated by a multi-agency team including all postsecondary education sectors in the state.  The CACG is a federally-funded formula grant program designed to foster partnerships among federal, state and local government entities and philanthropic organizations to significantly increase the number of underrepresented students who enter and remain in postsecondary education. The CACG provides grants to States to meet the needs of underrepresented students and families.  

The Oregon University System coordinated the grant activity for the State of Oregon, in collaboration with the Governor’s office and statewide partners in all educational sectors.  The State of Oregon held two CACG grants, the first grant awarded in 2008 which was active through August 2010, and a second three-year grant awarded in 2010 which was also active through August 2013.

Click here to visit the US Department of Education's summary of the College Access Challenge Grant Program.

Adult Learner Focus  

The first CACG grant (2008-2010) focused on prospective students in Oregon including adult learners by encouraging them to consider the possibilities of postsecondary training and providing them with information about how to return to or enroll in college. The first grant supported the Adult Learner College Line until August 2011 for which trained specialists answered questions from potential postsecondary education students; a website for adult learners and other prospective students, a “train the trainer” initiative in which guidance counselors, volunteer mentors, and human service and community agency staff were trained in financial aid basics; and a marketing campaign to spread awareness of these and other college resources in the state.

K-12 Focus   

Oregon’s second (2010-2013) grant of $1.5 million annually focused on increasing the number of Oregon K-12 students who attend postsecondary education by expanding the capacity of programs which provide pre-college enrichment opportunities so they can serve greater numbers of students with high quality programming. There were three primary components of this approach:

  • Increase the capacity of existing and new college enrichment programs with partner organizations to serve more Oregon K-12 students through a sub-granting process
  • Expand Oregon’s ASPIRE program to 50 new sites around the state
  • Provide a pilot program through NELA for 3,500 elementary school students that will expose them early to college and career exploration.