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Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program

Grants to USA IHEs to Enhance Education in the Natural
Resources, Human, Food, and Agricultural Sciences

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Deadline Date:

05/29/19 5:00 PM ET Receipt


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Grants to USA and territories colleges and universities to offer quality undergraduate and graduate degree tracks that will strengthen the Nation’s agricultural and food-related professional and scientific workforce. Applicants are advised that required registrations may take as long as two weeks to complete.

Purpose and Priorities:

HEC directly aligns with 2018-2022 USDA Strategic Plan; specifically, Strategic Goal #4 -- Facilitate Rural Prosperity and Economic Development; Objective 4.1: Expand rural business opportunity and rural quality of life with access to capital; improved infrastructure, broadband access and connectivity; and support for workforce availability.

Applications submitted to this grants program must state how the funded project will address the HEC Program Goals:

1. To enhance the quality of instruction for baccalaureate degrees, master’s degrees, and first professional degrees in veterinary sciences, in order to help meet current and future workforce needs in the food, agricultural, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences.

2. To increase the number and diversity of students who will pursue and complete a postsecondary degree in the FANH sciences.

HEC is a NIFA-administered competitive grants program focused on improving formal, baccalaureate or master’s degree level food, agricultural, natural resources, and human FANH sciences education and first professional degree-level education in veterinary medicine (DVM). HEC projects provide funding to eligible applicants to help ensure a competent, qualified and diverse workforce will exist to serve the FANH sciences system. At the same time, HEC-funded projects improve the economic health and viability of communities through the development of degree programs emphasizing new and emerging employment opportunities. Finally, HEC projects address the national challenge to increase the number and diversity of students entering the FANH sciences (i.e., having a FANH sciences workforce representative of the Nation’s population).

The HEC projects are expected to: (a) produce measurable impacts aligned with HEC program goals, (b) promote innovative, educational practices within the FANH sciences that improve how students learn, and (c) include a rigorous evaluation component to assess that project outcomes are met. Institutions must demonstrate capacity for, and a significant ongoing commitment to, the teaching of food, agricultural and human sciences generally, and to the specific need and/or discipline(s) for which a grant is requested. Projects should encourage academic institutions, in partnership with organizations and employers, to work collectively to identify and address a state or regional challenge or opportunity facing the FANH sciences education and workforce community. Additionally, projects should encourage broad participation of students traditionally underrepresented in the FANH sciences. An application must convince a peer panel of a compelling educational challenge; clearly indicate how the methodology is both unique and with merit; offer significant promise of adoption by others; and include a plan for how the project impacts will be sustained once grant funds end.

Projects must primarily focus on Baccalaureate, Masters, or DVM level education. However, a project may also include an ancillary, target impact on either secondary, or two-year postsecondary students.

For more details on the Program Area Description, including information about Social and Behavioral Sciences, Leadership Development, Global Engagement, and eXtension, see the RFP:

Project Types:

The HEC program will only accept Education/Teaching Projects. An education or teaching project shall develop human capital in order to help meet current and future national food, agriculture, natural resource and human (FANH) science workplace needs.

HEC projects must focus on one or more of the Need Areas listed below:

Educational Need Areas
a. Curriculum Development, Instructional Delivery Systems and Expanding Student Career Opportunities
b. Faculty Preparation and Enhancement for Teaching.
c. Facilitating Interaction with Other Academic Institutions.

For more information on need areas, see the RFP:

Grant Types:

Applicants may submit proposals for one of the following grant types:
a. Planning Activity
b. Standard Grant
c. Collaborative Grants:
- Collaborative Grant Type 1 (CG1) (Applicant + One Partner).
- Collaborative Grant Type 2 (CG2) (Applicant + Two or more Partners).

For more information on each grant type, see the RFP:

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 181100

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Planning: 2 total; Standard: 2 total; Collaborative 1: 2 total; Collaborative 2: 1 Collaborative 2 and 1 other HEC grant type

Estimated Size of Grant:

Planning Activity grants are up to $30,000.

Standard grants are up to $150,000.

Collaborative 1 grants are up to $300,000.

Collaborative 2 grants are up to $750,000.

Term of Contract:

Planning Activity grants are up to 24 months in duration.

Standard grants are 24 to 36 months in duration.

Collaborative 1 grants are 24 to 36 months in duration.

Collaborative 2 grants are 36 months in duration.

There are no limits on the total grant program funds that may be awarded to any one institution/organization in successive years of this competition. Successful award recipients may apply for additional awards in subsequent years either as a lead applicant or collaborator.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Applications may be submitted by: (a) U.S. public or private nonprofit colleges and universities offering a baccalaureate or first professional degree in at least one discipline or area of the FANH sciences; (b) land-grant colleges and universities, (including land grant institutions in the Insular Areas); (c) colleges and universities having significant minority enrollments and a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food and agricultural sciences; and (d) other colleges and universities having a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food and agricultural sciences.

An applicant also must meet the definition of an Eligible Institution/Organization as stated in the RFA (see Part VIII, E., Definitions). For the purposes of this program, the individual branches of a State university or other system of higher education that are separately accredited as degree- granting institutions are treated as separate institutions, and are therefore eligible for HEC awards. Separate branches or campuses of a college or university that are not individually accredited as degree-granting institutions are not treated as separate institutions. An institution eligible to receive an award under this program includes a research foundation maintained by an eligible college or university. Accreditation must be by an agency or association recognized by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

United States citizenship is not required of faculty that wish to serve as a PD, co-PD, or key personnel on a HEC grant.

Any individual (eligible participant) receiving Federal funds above must be a citizen or national of the United States, as defined in this RFA (see Part VIII, Definitions). Where eligibility is claimed under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a) (22), documentary evidence from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as to such eligibility must be made available to NIFA upon request. Failure to meet an eligibility criterion by the time of application deadline may result in the application being excluded from consideration or, even though an application may be reviewed, will preclude NIFA from making an award.

The following applies to CG1 and CG2 applicants only: The applicant institution must meet the definition of “eligible institution” as specified in §3405.2(i); the other institutions participating in a CG1 and CG2 project proposals are not required to meet the definition of “eligible institution” as specified in §3405.2(i), nor required to meet the definition of “college” or “university” as specified in §3405.2(f).

Award recipients may subcontract to organizations not eligible to apply provided such organizations are necessary for the conduct of the project.

Failure to meet an eligibility criterion by the application deadline may result in the application being excluded from consideration or, even though an application may be reviewed, will preclude NIFA from making an award.

Pre-Application Information:

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on May 29, 2019. Applications received after this deadline will normally not be considered for funding.

There is no limit on the number of applications that may be submitted by an applicant institution. However, a successful applicant institution/organization will only be awarded a maximum of two (2) grants per year under this program. No more than one (1) CG2 grant will be awarded to an institution/organization in any one, annual HEC grants program competition, and generally, an individual academic (or other) unit (a college, school of agriculture, etc.) within the institution/organization may only have one (1) active, CG2 grant in effect at any time.

Prior to preparing an application, it is recommended that the Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) first contact an Authorized Representative (AR, also referred to as Authorized Organizational Representative, or AOR) to determine if the organization is prepared to submit electronic applications through

If not (e.g., the institution/organization is new to the electronic grant application process through, then the one-time registration process must be completed PRIOR to submitting an application. It can take as long as two weeks to complete the registration process so it is critical to begin as soon as possible.

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Applicants and other interested parties are encouraged to contact:

Programmatic Contact:

Joyce Parker, Ph.D.
National Program Leader
Division of Community and Education
Location: 4405 Waterfront Centre
800 9th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Phone: (202) 445 -5403
Fax: (202) 720 - 9366

Administrative/Business Contact:

Sondra Watkins, Team Leader
Awards Management Division
Office of Grants and Financial Management
Location: 2170 Waterfront Centre
800 9th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Phone: (202) 401 - 4249
Fax: (202) 401-3237

Rochelle McCrea, Team Leader
Awards Management Division
Office of Grants and Financial Management
Location: 2160 Waterfront Centre
800 9th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Phone: (202) 401 - 2880
Fax: (202) 401 - 6271

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming