Department Awards $75 Million in "First in the World" Grants to 24 Colleges and Universities

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Department Awards $75 Million in "First in the World" Grants to 24 Colleges and Universities

Grants will support innovative strategies at colleges and universities that make higher education more accessible and help guide students toward completion

September 30, 2014

To drive innovations in higher education that increase college completion, value and affordability, the Education Department today awarded $75 million to 24 colleges and universities under the new "First in the World" (FITW) grant program.

Through FITW, the Obama Administration will support postsecondary institutions' efforts to develop and evaluate new approaches that can expand college access and improve student learning while reducing costs. In May, the Department announced this year's grant competition as part of President Obama's ambitious agenda to increase postsecondary access and completion.

"The First in the World grant competition is a key part of President Obama's agenda to foster innovative ideas that help keep college affordable, increase quality and improve educational outcomes for our students," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The Department is proud to support the wide range of innovation at colleges and universities across the nation that can dramatically enhance student outcomes."

Nearly 500 applications were submitted for this FITW grant competition. The 24 colleges and universities selected for this initial year of awards represent 17 states, 19 public, private, and nonprofit 4-year institutions and five public and private two-year institutions. Six of the 24 winning applications—including an HBCU—are from minority serving institutions (MSIs), which will receive about $20 million in funding. Many of the grantees have additional organizational partners, such as other postsecondary institutions, non-profits, and businesses.

All projects will address at least one of these priorities: increasing college access and completion, increasing community college transfer rates, increasing STEM enrollment and completion, and reducing time to completion. They include an array of innovations, such as: developing new project-based majors that allow for self-pacing and acceleration; developing an online experience for adult students that incorporates virtual learning communities and wraparound coaching; expanding access to digital content for students with disabilities, and implementing a game-based tool that gives high school students an understanding of the college search and financing process for use in mentoring programs. As part of the evidence-based program, grantees are required to have a strong evaluation plan to measure the effectiveness of their innovations in helping students succeed. All grants are for a four-year duration.

Examples of funded projects are:

  • Hampton University in Virginia, an HBCU, will use its $3.5 million grant to redesign many of its courses to entail more project-based learning and technology tools, benefitting more than 1000 students over its 4-year duration.
  • Purdue University in Indiana, a public 4-year institution in Indiana, will work with its partners in the University Innovation Alliance to use its $2.3 million grant to support STEM undergraduates, particularly women and underrepresented groups, by redesigning large-lecture courses to more fully engage students through active learning interventions. Nearly 10,000 students will benefit over the course of the 4-year grant.
  • LaGuardia Community College in New York will use its $2.9 million grant to strengthen its curriculum by developing an integrated set of tools to increase student engagement and success, including the use of ePortfolios, learning analytics, and outcomes assessments. The changes will support thousands of high-risk students as they move from LaGuaradia's non-credit program to academic enrollment as well as enrolled students moving toward graduation.

As the projects are further developed, the Department will convene for information sharing and the exchange of best practices to broaden the impact of their innovations on a wider student population.

For the Education FY2015 budget, Secretary Duncan has requested $100 million to expand support for the First in the World fund. The request also asks for $75 million for College Success Grants for Minority-Serving Institutions, which would make competitive awards to minority-serving institutions designated under Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act.

2014 First In The World Grantees (FITW)

  • Alabama
    Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville—$3,175,302
    Alicia Simmons,, (256) 782-8145

  • Arizona
    Arizona State University, Tempe—$3,999,955
    Jeanne Wilcox,, (480) 965-0158

  • California
    University of Southern California, Los Angeles—$3,203,257
    William Tierney,, (213) 740-7218

  • Georgia
    Georgia Tech, Atlanta—$3,800,000
    Christopher Lee,, (404) 894-8000

    Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw—$3,209,405
    Jennifer Wade-Berg,, (707) 423-6630

    Central Georgia Technical College, Warner Robins—$3,215,009
    Nimisha Raval,, (478) 757-2588

  • Indiana
    Indiana State University, Terre Haute—$1,627,322
    Joshua Powers,, ((812) 237-8378

    Purdue University, West Lafayette—$2,373,003
    Chantal Levesque-Bristol,, (765) 496-6424

  • Kentucky
    Gateway Technical and Community College, Florence—$3,327,881
    Amber Decker,, (859) 442-1147

  • Massachusetts
    Bay Path University, Longmeadow—$3,548,322
    David Demers,, (413) 565-1315

    Northeastern University, Boston—$3,920,926
    Kevin Bell,, (617) 373-6603

  • Michigan
    Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo—$3,217,511
    Andrea Beach,, (269) 387-1725
  • Minnesota
    University of Minnesota, Minneapolis—$2,828,912
    Geoffrey Maruyama,, (612) 625-5861

  • Mississippi
    Delta State University, Cleveland—$1,660,957
    Christy Riddle,, (662)846-4336

  • North Carolina
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—$3,030,323
    Abigail Panter,, (919) 962,4012

  • New Hampshire
    Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester—$3,953,360
    Cathrael Kazin,, (603) 314-1420

  • New York
    Research Foundation for SUNY/Oswego, Albany—$2,885,126
    Lorrie Clemo,, (315) 312-2290

    LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City—$2,908,031
    Bret Eynon,, (718) 482-5405

    The College of New Rochelle—$3,998,781
    Ana Fontoura,, (914) 654-5456

  • Pennsylvania
    Bryn Mawr College—$1,653,186
    Elizabeth McCormack,, (610) 526-5356

  • South Dakota
    South Dakota State University, Brookings—$3,599,996
    Marysz Rames,, (605) 688-4493

  • Texas
    Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi—$3,301,524
    Patricia Spaniol-Mathews,

    Lee College District, Baytown—$2,690,954
    Victoria Marron,, (281) 425-6501

  • Virginia
    Hampton University, Hampton—$3,500,0000
    Ira Walker,, (757) 727-5397