First in the World (FITW) Grant Competition

First in the World (FITW) Grant Competition

Washington D.C, 23.05.2014 –

On May 21, 2014, I participated on a stakeholder conference call hosted by the U.S. Department of Education to provide an overview and details of the new First in the World (FITW) Grant competition.  The notice for the grant solicitation was published in the May 16 Federal Register, and can be found here.  Two identical webinars will be held, one on May 28 from 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm (EST) and a second on June 4 at 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm (EST).  Registration is required to participate on the webinars and additional information is available at

To put into perspective the interest in this program, there were 900 RSVPs for a maximum of 400 slots for the call.  $75 million is available for the program to be awarded to projects that provide a wide range of evidenced-based innovations to improve student access, affordability, and completion across the nation.   Secretary Arne Duncan provided greeting and emphasized that high quality postsecondary education is essential, especially for those from underprepared, underrepresented, and low-income backgrounds.  Applicants should clearly articulate how and why their project proposals, practices, teaching methods, and policies work for students in improving outcomes and completion.   The Department of Education will focus on project relevance and the theory and logic model that supports the proposed project.  Projects that are sustainable for the long-term beyond the grant period are preferred by the Department of Education.

The Department of Education staff emphasized evidence-based projects that use cutting edge approaches and expands research on innovative practices to advance college completion of a college degree or credential.  Applicants must address one of the following five key priorities of the grant:

  • Increasing access and completion – (What gaps are we looking to close with project? Persistence, etc.)
  • Increasing community college transfer rates to 4-year colleges for underprepared, underrepresented, and low-income students
  • Increasing opportunities in STEM for underprepared, underrepresented, and low-income students
  • Reducing time to completion
  • Improving college affordability for underprepared, underrepresented, and low-income students

Based on a question I asked during the conference call, we were advised that it is best for applicants to focus on one of the priorities and weave in key parts of other priorities if applicable as some institutions may be focused on multiple objectives similar to those listed above.  We were told that successful FITW project characteristics include the following:

  • Project design supported by strong theory
  • Data collection plan
  • Design and implementation plan for Project
  • Projects deemed replicable and scalable
  • Improve access for underrepresented
  • Project that reduces costs to students

The Department of Education staff stated several times that innovation, strong theory, and evidence of promise are VERY important factors in the FITW competition.   They also mentioned that they would not be overly prescriptive on budget details but that the budget must clearly connect to elements of proposed project and must be planned for 4 years.

Potential applicants were advised that there would be two additional points given to applications that address a competitive preference priority, there is an indirect cost is 8 percent, and there is no grant match requirement.

Please let me know if you have questions.  I am available to consult with intuitions on their grant applications and can be reached at or 202-596-8384.