About Grants at the U.S. Department of Education
This explanation briefly describes the way the Department’s grant programs are organized and ruled.
What is a discretionary grant?
A discretionary grant
is an award made by the Department for which the Department has
discretion, or choice, in which applicants get funded. Virtually all of
the Department’s discretionary grants are made based on a competitive review process. The
Department reviews applications based on the legislative and regulatory
requirements, and on the application requirements and criteria
established for a discretionary grant program. This review process gives
the Department discretion to determine which applications best address
the program requirements and are, therefore, most worthy of receiving
funding. Successful applicants become the Department’s grantees.
How do I determine if we are eligible to receive a discretionary grant?
first thing to determine before applying for a grant is whether you, or
your organization, are eligible for the program. Eligibility
requirements are generally established by the legislation that
authorizes the program and can be affected by a Federal Register notice or regulations.
Eligibility requirements vary from program to program. Eligibility
might be limited to a specific type of organization (such as state
education agencies), organizations that serve a particular target
population (such as disadvantaged students or Native American students),
organizations that meet some other criteria, or individuals with
certain qualifications. Some programs require an individual or
organization that wishes to apply for funding to first apply to the
Department to be certified as eligible for that program; however, most
programs do not have this requirement.
What are Funding priorities?
Funding priorities: Priorities
focus a competition on areas of current concern or emphasis by the
secretary of education. Priorities take the form of specific kinds of
activities that applicants are asked to include in an application or
certain conditions that must exist for applicants to be eligible. There
are Absolute Priorities, which the applicant must address in order to be considered for funding; Competitive Priorities,
which the applicant has the option of choosing whether or not to
address and for which they may receive additional points or preference;
and Invitational Priorities, which the applicant is encouraged
but not required to address. Applications addressing invitational
priorities receive no competitive or absolute preference over
applications that do not meet the priority.
For some programs, the Department publishes funding priorities in a Federal Register
notice in order to focus a competition on the activities and objectives
for which the secretary of education is particularly interested in
receiving applications. The Department uses three kinds of funding
priorities in its programs: absolute, competitive, and invitational.
the Department publishes an “absolute priority” for a program, it will
consider for funding only those applications that address that
priority. For example, a published absolute priority to fund only
projects that increase the amount of time students are engaged in the
study of mathematics and science would mean that only those applications
that are designed to achieve this result can be considered for
the Department publishes one or more “competitive priorities” for a
program, applicants successfully addressing those priorities may receive
additional points or preference during the competitive review process.
the Department publishes “invitational priorities,” it encourages
applicants to address certain issues in their project design. However,
an application that meets an invitational priority receives no
competitive or absolute preference over applications that do not meet
Another type of
priority supports novice applicants. In order to broaden and diversify
the pool of applicants that apply for Department grants and to provide
greater opportunities for inexperienced applicants to receive funding,
the Department may give special consideration to novice applicants in
program competitions. Under the regulation found in 34 CFR 75.225 (d),
programs may either establish a separate competition for novice
applicants or include novice applicants in the general program
competitions and give them competitive preference by assigning bonus
points. Programs that use the novice procedures in their competition
will notify the public in the application notice, published in the Federal Register.
How are the Department’s programs organized?
There are eight principal offices
in the Department that are responsible for the administration of
discretionary grant programs. Each office is responsible for overseeing a
portion of the programs established by Congress and administered by the
Department. The Department’s organizational chart is available at www.ed.gov/about/offices/or.
The following principal offices are responsible for making discretionary grants:
Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) programs
make strategic investments in innovative educational practices. OII
grants support and test innovations throughout the elementary and
secondary education system, in areas such as alternate routes to
teaching certification, dropout prevention, and arts in education. OII
programs also encourage and support the establishment of charter
schools, through planning and start-up funding and through innovative
approaches to providing credit for charter school facilities.
Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE)
programs are designed to increase access to quality postsecondary
education. Examples of OPE grants include support to improve
postsecondary educational facilities and programs, and support for
programs that recruit and prepare disadvantaged students for the
successful completion of postsecondary education. Other OPE programs
promote the domestic study of foreign languages and international
affairs and support international education research and exchange
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
programs are designed to assist state and local education agencies to
improve the achievement of elementary and secondary school students and
to assure equal access to services leading to such improvement for all
children, particularly children who are economically or educationally
disadvantaged. Examples of OESE grants include financial
assistance to support comprehensive education reform efforts, grants for
projects that improve the quality of teaching in elementary and
secondary schools, and grants to support the use of proven methods of early reading instruction in classrooms and early childhood centers.
Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) programs
provide financial assistance for drug and violence prevention
activities, and projects that promote the health and well being of
students in elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher
education. OSDFS also administers the Department’s programs relating to
citizenship and civics education.
Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the
Department’s primary research office, supports research that
contributes to improved academic achievement for all students, and
particularly for those whose education prospects are hindered by
inadequate education services and conditions associated with poverty,
limited English proficiency, disability, and family circumstance. IES
conducts and supports scientifically valid research activities,
including basic research and applied research, statistics activities,
scientifically valid education evaluation, development, and
dissemination. IES’s four operational divisions are the National Center
for Education Research, the National Center for Education Evaluation and
Regional Assistance, the National Center for Education Statistics, and
the National Center for Special Education Research.
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
administers grants in three main areas: special education, vocational
rehabilitation, and research. Special education programs are designed to
meet the needs and develop the full potential of children with
disabilities through the provision of special education and early
intervention programs and services. Vocational rehabilitation grants
reduce dependency and enhance the productive capabilities of persons
with disabilities through the provision of independent living and
vocational rehabilitation services. OSERS’s National Institute on
Disability and Rehabilitation Research conducts and supports
rehabilitative and special education research and demonstration
activities in order to increase knowledge about, foster innovation in,
and improve the delivery of services for persons with disabilities.
Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA)
administers programs designed to provide national leadership to help
ensure that English language learners and immigrant students attain
English proficiency and achieve academically. These programs assist in
building the nation’s capacity in critical foreign languages. OELA’s
grant programs include Native American and Alaska Native Children in
Schools; Foreign Language Assistance; and National Professional
Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) administers
programs that are related to adult education and literacy, career and
technical education, and community colleges. Examples of OVAE programs
include grants designed to promote identification and dissemination of
effective practice in raising student achievement in high schools,
community colleges and adult education programs, and grants to support
targeted research investments in adult literacy and career and technical
What are grant regulations?
The Department generally uses two types of regulations to award and administer grants: program and administrative regulations. Program
regulations apply to all applicants and/or grantees under a particular
program. They implement legislation passed by Congress to authorize a
specific grant program, and usually include applicant and participant
eligibility criteria and specify the types of activities funded. Program
regulations or other notices may include criteria or competitive
priorities under which applications will be selected for
funding. Administrative regulations, generally set out by type of
recipient organization (such as government or nonprofit), apply to all
grantees of that type, regardless of the program. These regulations
implement requirements contained in OMB circulars,
presidential executive orders, and legislation that affect all
applicants for, or recipients of, federal grants. The Department also
has administrative regulations that apply to its discretionary grant
programs. The administrative regulations implementing OMB circulars, the
Department’s specific administrative requirements, and the other
governmentwide common requirements comprise what is known as EDGAR (Education Department General Administrative Regulations).
EDGAR is available at www.ed.gov/policy/fund/reg/edgarReg/edgar.html. New and amended program and administrative regulations issued by the Department and published throughout the year in the Federal Register are posted at www.ed.gov/news/fedregister/finrule.
Where do I find Grants?
is the preliminary plan for the discretionary grant competitions for
the coming fiscal year. It includes anticipated dates for each
forecasted competition. As the Forecast is subject to change
during the year, you should check the Web site of the program in which
you are interested for the most current information about its