Advice on applying for FIPSE funding

TOWSON, Md. (March 3, 2010) - At the recent American Association of State Colleges and Universities Grants Resource Center Proposal Development Workshop, Mary Louise Healy of TU's Office of Sponsored Programs & Research had the opportunity to meet individually with Claire Cornell, Program Officer, U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

Cornell shared some tips on applying to the FIPSE Comprehensive Program, which funds innovative projects of all types designed to improve postsecondary education. Her advice:

  • Applicants are not required to address invitational priorities. A review of previously funded projects will show that not all funded projects address that year’s invitational priorities, and no additional points are awarded applicants who do address one or more of these priorities.
  • Talk to a program officer about your project idea. Cornell can accommodate conference calls with prospective applicants. Contact her.
  • Innovation is key, but innovation can be putting a new “spin” on a tried and true method of dealing with a problem.  A project does not have to be innovative in that it’s never been tried.
  • FIPSE encourages high-risk projects – even if the results aren’t what the project directors expect they’ll be, the public will learn from them.
  • Do an exhaustive search on how the problem described in the proposal is now being addressed.  Citations are vital, but be sure to use citations that are easily accessed – if it’s not publicly available and a reviewer is unable to access it, it’s not helpful.
  • Be sure the proposal cannot be misread. Share your proposal with others to make sure your points are clear.
  • Make it easy for the reviewers to quickly find the information. Map the project’s table of contents to the guidelines; use subtitles to match those in the solicitation.
  • Include letters of commitment from partner organizations stating that they will adopt and adapt the results of your work. Dissemination is an important selection criterion.
  • Show an institutional commitment to the project, no cost share is required. Don’t show any cost share in the budget but do discuss, in the proposal narrative, the ways in which resources will be leveraged.
  • Show a local need within the national context. What’s wrong on your campus, and how does this problem affect a universe of similar institutions?

This year’s Comprehensive Program announcement has not yet been issued, but Cornell advises prospective applicants to check the FIPSE Web site, daily beginning in March. OSPR monitors the site and will notify the campus community as soon as the announcement is released. Cornell shared the budget selection criteria with detailed, point-by-point advice on what should be addressed in a competitive proposal. This document is available from OSPR,

Cornell also strongly encourages faculty members and administrators to volunteer as field readers and complete the Online Field Reader Application Form.  Serving as a reviewer is an excellent experience and is one of the best ways to become a good proposal writer.

Federal agency representatives shared a wealth of information and insight at the AASCU GRC Proposal Development Workshop – stay tuned for advice from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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