ASU Gets $24.7 Million Grant!

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ASU's President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr. (photo credit: David Campbell/ASU). 

ASU Awarded Record $24.7 Million Grant by U.S. Department of Education 

By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU 

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $24.7 million federal discretionary grant to Alabama State University to design and lead a program aimed at significantly increasing the number of low-income students in the Montgomery Public School System (MPS) who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.  

The grant numbers among the largest 'single' grant awards to the University and the grant spans a seven-year period. The grant is titled "Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs" (GEAR UP), explained Dr. Carl S. Pettis, ASU's provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; who is the principal investigator of the grant. Pettis said that by the grant's seventh-year in 2028, ASU's GEAR UP will provide academic preparation services to more than 26,000 students within MPS. The project provides services to high-poverty, middle and high school students and begins with a sixth and seventh-grade cohort of 4,495 students who study within all ten MPS middle schools. The grant will continue to provide services to the cohort as they enter MPS high schools.  

“We are elated that this initiative was funded by the U.S. Department of Education because through this endeavor, ASU will collectively work with Montgomery Public Schools to be change-agents for the academic well-being and continued growth of our MPS students and scholars," Pettis stated. "The co-principal investigators on this project are Dr. Kennedy Wekesa and Dr. Tanjula Petty. They, as well as Alice McClain, deserve a great deal of credit for their efforts. Additionally, our partners at SpectrumRED — Dr. Thomas Shuster, Dr. Donna Turner and Michael Ward — did a wonderful job to help bring this project to fruition.” 

Project goals will include:

* Increase ASU GEAR UP students’ academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education;

* Increase ASU GEAR UP students’ high school graduation rate and participation in postsecondary education;

* Increase educational expectations of ASU GEAR UP students and increase student and family knowledge of postsecondary options. 


ASU President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., said the GEAR UP grant takes on a new level of what he calls 'CommUniversity,' since it involves diverse segments of Montgomery's community working together with the University. 

"The ASU program will involve collaborations with more than 12 community partners and institutions, such as Auburn University, Tuskegee University, Wallace Community College-Selma, Coastal Alabama Community College, Southern Union State Community College, Boys and Girls Club of the River Region, the YMCA of Greater Montgomery, and five of ASU's colleges to provide MPS students with services to improve their academic performance, increase graduation rates and promote college exploration," Ross said. 

"One of the goals of the University's GEAR UP program is to foster flexible and affordable paths to obtaining knowledge and skills, building capacity for remote learning, and addressing the impact of COVID-19 on students’ mental health and their individual academic outcomes within MPS," stated Ross, a lifelong educator and former MPS principal. 

"Helping students succeed is what education is all about and GEAR UP at ASU has the potential of impacting the lives and educational opportunities for thousands of area students over the next seven years,” Ross added. 

To learn more about GEAR UP, click here: (

News media contact: Kenneth Mullinax,  334 229 4104.