It’s College Application Week!

Who knew?

Who cares?

Well, all of Montana’s high school seniors certainly should. For this week only (Nov. 11-15), seniors from 84 high schools in Montana can apply to 18 participating colleges and universities – without having to pay the application fee.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and state Superintendent of Public  Education Denise Juneau were in a Helena high school to talk about the Montana GEAR UP program, which is the result of the Office of Public Instruction partnering with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.

Montana GEAR UP is aimed at getting more students in Montana to pursue higher education. According to the latest numbers, only 61 percent of our high school graduates immediately enrolled in a post-secondary education institution after graduating.

GEAR UP covers more than 5,200 seniors, and allows them to waive or defer payment for one college or university application this week only.

“There are so many opportunities available for the class of 2014, and I want to make sure students and families are aware of their options for life after high school,”  Superintendent Juneau said in a prepared statement. “We know that Montana has some of the brightest students in the country, and we want to get these bright students enrolled in post-secondary programs. Ensuring today’s students are trained for the jobs of tomorrow supports a strong economic future for our entire state.”

For his part, Governor Bullock had this to say: “When a Montana student has the opportunity to gain an education beyond high school—be it 2-year or 4-year program—they’re better equipped to find a job that will allow them to provide for themselves and their families, as well as playing a pivotal role in our state’s economy. We should be doing everything we can to remove barriers to educational opportunities for Montana students.”

Here’s more from the news release:

In 2011, OCHE was awarded a seven-year, $28 million GEAR UP grant, a portion of which is covering the cost of every public high school junior in Montana having access to the ACT Plus Writing test for the next five years. In 2013, more than 9,000 public school juniors took the ACT Plus Writing test this spring at no cost to their families. The results of the statewide ACT testing of all public school juniors include: 840 more students qualified for the Governor’s “Best and Brightest” scholarship, 520 more students are eligible for full admission into one of Montana’s four-year colleges, and 754 more students are eligible for provisional admission into a four-year college than the class of 2013.

“Now it’s time for seniors to put their ACT results to work and find a good college match,” said Commissioner Clayton Christian. “I am appreciative of Montana’s great colleges and universities who have eliminated a critical college access barrier by generously offering to defer or waive the application fee for College Application Week.”

The Helena High counseling department will offer time in the afternoon on campus every day during the week of November 11-15 for seniors to get assistance as they fill out and complete their college admissions application. Representatives from Helena College and Carroll College will also be on site.

Chrissy Murgel, counselor at HHS stated, “We are excited about College Application Week and the doors it begins to open for our students. We tell our students at Helena High that a high school diploma is not the end of their education, but rather what is required to lead them into the next stage of their journey.” She continued, “Whether it’s a certificate program, a two-year program or a four-year program, students must further their education to be competitive in today’s job market. A high school diploma is not enough to feed a family and live a comfortable life.”

The American College Application Campaign (ACAC) is a national effort to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students pursuing a college degree or other higher education credential. The primary purpose of this effort is to help high school seniors navigate the complex college admissions process and ensure they apply to at least one postsecondary institution. The effort occurs during the school day, with a focus on students who might not otherwise apply to college.

Montana GEAR UP is a federal Department of Education college access grant program administered by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.  Montana GEAR UP provides services to schools, students and families to increase the number of first-generation and low income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college.   At the invitation of the American Council on Education, Montana GEAR UP piloted Montana College Application Week in 2012 with four high schools.

Click here for a list of the 84 high schools and 18 colleges and universities participating in College Application Week.