ARDMORE, OK -- Missing out on a college education can cost you big money. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics people who graduate with a college degree make about $1.1 million dollars more over a life time than people who do not, and a federal grant that will help students across the state obtain college success was recently awarded to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has been awarded its 3rd consecutive multi-year GEAR UP grant. More than $34 million dollars that will be used to help better prepare students for college. Ardmore City Schools was one of 23 Oklahoma GEAR UP school districts selected to utilize the funds, and they even had a special presentation at their high school Monday afternoon to celebrate.
Sonia Khan is the President of Ardmore's Senior Class this year. She says as a leader of her school, her goal is to see all of her classmates succeed. She has seen first-hand the Gaining Early Awareness and Rediness for Undergraduate Program really make a difference in her school.
"It's really exciting that we get money to help every student in Ardmore High School go to college," Khan said.
Khan says the previous GEAR UP grant has already helped implement an after school ACT prep course held every Wednesday afternoon. A class that teaches test taking strategies to help kids pass challenging college entry exams. The grant money also helps prepare students for college through development activities taught in the classroom, and even helps create scholarships to make a higher education obtainable.
U.S. Congressman Tom Cole made a special trip to Ardmore High School to congratulate and present certificates to Ardmore, Davis, Madill and several other local school districts. He says this may be extra money for the schools, but it is also extra work for the school's staff.
"The fact that Oklahoma has had teachers and administrators willing to step up, take on a little extra burden so their children, that's in their charge can succeed. That just says wonders about our teachers, and superintendents, and principles," Congressman Cole said.
Congressman Cole says during this down economy it really makes a difference to get a college degree. He says nationally 1 in 10 American's do not have a job, but only less than 4% of those who do have a degree are without work. He says this grant not only benefits students, but the economy as a whole.
"It helps people achieve their dreams. It helps us be more competitive economically. Frankly, if they're more competitive and they do better, guess what? They pay more taxes. It actually works well for everybody concerned," Congressman Cole said.
Congressman Cole says through this grant the number of students who enroll in college has greatly increased. For example in the past five years the GEAR UP program has helped more than 6,000 students from the poorest communities seek a higher education.