The GEAR UP program is a discretionary grant program that encourages eligible entities to provide support, and maintain a commitment, to eligible low-income students, including students with disabilities, to assist the students in obtaining a secondary school diploma (or its recognized equivalent) and to prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. Under the GEAR UP program, the Department awards grants to States or to partnerships consisting of at least one institution of higher education, an LEA, and two community organizations.

The Partnership grants are competitive six-year matching grants. Proposed activities must include providing financial aid information for postsecondary education, encouraging enrollment in rigorous and challenging coursework in order to reduce the need for remediation at the postsecondary level, and implementing activities to improve the number of participating students who obtain a secondary school diploma and who complete applications for and enroll in a program of postsecondary education. Activities may also include mentoring; tutoring; supporting dual or concurrent enrollment programs that support participating students in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM); academic and career counseling; financial and economic literacy education; and exposure to college campuses.