Education Dept. Moving Closer to ‘First’ Grantmaking

(Comment Deadline: March 25) The Office of the Postsecondary Education (ED) moves closer to releasing the solicitation for a second round of First in the World grants (CFDA Number: 84.116F), releasing a Federal Register notice offering the proposed priorities, requirements, selection criteria and definitions.

This program is modeled after the Investing in Innovation (i3) program for K-12 education. The goal of i3 () is to fund innovative ways to improve K-12 student achievement or student growth, close achievement gaps, decrease dropout rates or increase high school graduation rates and college enrollment/completion rates.

First in the World provides incentives and rewards for innovation and building evidence of what works to reduce costs and improve outcomes in postsecondary education. This program is part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to significantly improve the nation’s higher education graduation rate by 2020.

States and public and private colleges and universities can apply for the upcoming funding, with $60 million expected in this round. In the initial round, $75 million in awards were made. The solicitation should be released about 60 to 90 days after the March 25 comment deadline.

In a win for the White House, the project received $60 million in FY 2015 in the current omnibus (PL 113-235), down from $75 million in FY 2014.

Program may have many priorities

OPE proposes nine priorities: (1) Improving Success in Developmental Education; (2) Improving Teaching and Learning; (3) Improving Student Support Services; (4) Developing and Using Assessments of Learning; (5) Facilitating Pathways to Credentialing and Transfer; (6) Increasing the Effectiveness of Financial Aid; (7) Implementing Low Cost-High Impact Strategies To Improve Student Outcomes; (8) Improving Postsecondary Student Outcomes at Minority-Serving Institutions; and (9) Systems and Consortia Focused on Large-Scale Impact.

Minority-serving funds uncertain

The proposed priorities don’t reference the First in the World Minority Institutions (CFDA Number: 84.116X) grants. Of the $75 million available in FY 2014, $20 million was available for this grant program, which focuses on minority-serving institutions grants. The proposed process doesn’t specify if a portion of the funding will go to minority-serving institutions.

The proposed minority-serving priority would reward partnerships between these types of institutions to improve higher education offerings and college completion among minorities.

Keep in mind: The First in the World effort is part of a larger White House effort to improve college completion in the United States. While following the federal funding trail, grantseekers are wise to keep informed about private funders joining the effort.

Thus far, the Obama administration has attracted millions in foundation and private funding for its efforts to help more students prepare for and graduate from college. At the second White House College Opportunity Day of Action on Dec. 4, more than 600 new college completion actions were unveiled in one of four areas: (1) building networks of colleges focused on promoting completion; (2) creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness; (3) investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative; and (4) increasing the number of college graduates in STEM fields.

Contact: Frank Frankfort, 202/502-7513; e-mail,

About Frank Klimko

Frank Klimko is a nationally known journalist, grants expert and speech writer/speaker. He has years of experience helping nonprofits devise lists of the right funding opportunities and secure funding from these foundations and corporate entities. Clients have focused on an array of areas including child care, homeless, hunger and K-12 education. Additionally, he is a Freedom of Information Act expert, who has helped numerous clients with securing proprietary information from the federal government. Currently, Frank Klimko writes the Children & Youth Funding Report and Private Grants Alert, which are Washington DC-based publications. CYF is a daily publication covering Congress, the Education Dept. and the various federal regulatory agencies. PGA, another daily publication, covers the world of private philanthropy.
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