Model & Strategy

Illinois GEAR UP (ILGU) is a statewide, federally-funded discretionary grant program housed at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs and is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

The most recent seven-year ILGU grant was awarded to ISAC in 2016 using a cohort model to provide direct services to approximately 30,000 students in 25 middle schools and 25 high schools across Illinois.

Our Impact

Vela created the two visualizations below to disseminate the project findings, allowing users to explore the data by a variety of characteristics.

To explore the full NCAN brief on the project click here


To advance the goals and objectives of the GEAR UP state grant, ISAC created a Developmental Curriculum delivered by educators during the school-day aimed to bolster middle school students’ identity, planning, and self-advocacy skills. The intended goal of this curriculum of developing adolescents’ skills in three domains students’ likelihood for success in achieving the GEAR UP program’s goals of enrolling and completing postsecondary education will increase.

Examining engagement with the Developmental Curriculum at the student level rather than the school-level indicates that ILGU implemented at least one lesson of the Developmental Curriculum to a total of 1,587 students during the 2019-2020 school year. 

Vela Institute is proposing to use the use the Theory of Planned Behavior (TBP) to illustrate how developing students in the three area domains of the Developmental Curriculum will increase the likelihood that a student will enroll in and complete a postsecondary degree. 

Insight: Students engaged most frequently with the Planning Domain of the Developmental Curriculum