STARKVILLE • Three school districts and various students throughout the state will be assisted by a new $27.9 million grant awarded to Mississippi State University, according to a press release from the university.

The school announced Sept. 6 that it received funding for its Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant program through the U.S. Department of Education.

The application for the seven-year grant, designed to help low-income students pursue postsecondary education, was supported by U.S. Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker. According to the press release, Hyde-Smith is on the appropriations subcommittee that funds the program and said the program will help prepare students.

“This seven-year grant gives the university and its partners the capacity to reach more youth across Mississippi, which will benefit our state in the long run,” said Hyde-Smith in a press release.

Principal investigators for the grant are Carol Cutler White and Betsey Smith. White is an assistant professor in the MSU College of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership, and Smith is the director of MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit. The press release names the Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the Woodward Hines Education Foundation and ACT, Inc. as partners for the GEAR UP Mississippi program.

The GEAR UP program will partner with the Greenville, McComb and Meridian public school districts and work directly with a group of students from middle school onwards to assist them with both increased success in high school and awareness of postsecondary options.

Project partnerships to assist other students throughout the state include a virtual reality tour app with eight industries and all of Mississippi’s public university and community colleges, RCU and the Mississippi Department of Education working together to provide teacher training and STEM outreach, a 24/7 chatbot for common financial aid questions, and the Woodward Hines Education Foundation providing financial aid application support and statewide ACT test prep services. MSU will also provide additional resources and programs to support students once enrolled on campus.

For more on the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP grant program, visit www.ed.gov/gearup/index.html.

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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