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Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program

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

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Funding Source:

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

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Grants to USA colleges and universities to offer quality undergraduate and graduate degree tracks that will strengthen the country's agricultural and food-related professional and scientific workforce. Applicants should contact program staff and register with the grant portal prior to applying. Funding is intended for projects that will help faculty at IHEs inspire their students and take learning to a new level. Funding is available for Planning and Standard Grants, and for Collaborative Grants, Type 1 and 2.

The purpose of HEC is to strengthen institutional capacities, including curriculum, faculty, scientific instrumentation, instruction delivery systems, and student recruitment and retention, to respond to identified State, regional, national, or international educational needs in the food and agricultural sciences, or in rural economic, community, and business development.

Specifically, applications submitted to this grants program must state how the funded project will address the HEC Program Goals.

The HEC projects are expected to: (a) produce measurable impacts aligned with HEC program goals, (b) promote innovative, educational practices within the food and agricultural 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 food and agricultural sciences education and workforce community. Additionally, projects should encourage broad participation of students traditionally underrepresented in the food and agricultural 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.

For additional information about project and grant types, see:

HEC Program Goals can be found at

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 181100

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

2 total grants for Planning Activity, Standard, and Collaborative; 2 Collaborative 2 grant; and 1 other HEC grant type.

Estimated Size of Grant:

- Planning Activity – Approx. $30,000;
- Standard – Approx. $150,000;
- Collaborative 1 (CG1) – Approx. $300,000;
- Collaborative 2 (CG2) – Approx.$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:

Applicants for the HEC must meet all the requirements discussed in this RFA. Applications may be submitted by:
1. 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 food and agricultural sciences;
2. Land-grant colleges and universities, (including land grant institutions in the Insular Areas);
3. Colleges and universities having significant minority enrollments and a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food and agricultural sciences; and
4. Other colleges and universities having a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food and agricultural sciences.

Global Engagement: NIFA supports global engagement that advances U.S. agricultural goals. NIFA recognizes that collaboration with international partners may be necessary to attain the agency's goals for U.S. agriculture, promote global competence of our nation’s future agricultural workforce, and promote safe and nutritious food security in a growing world. Therefore, although application to this RFA is limited to eligible U.S. institutions, applicants may collaborate with international partners, to include subcontracts to international partners or other institutions. Applications must clearly demonstrate benefits to the U.S.

Detailed eligibility information can be found at

Funding restrictions can be found at

Pre-Application Information:

Applications must be received by March 18, 2021.

Applicants must apply through New users to must register early prior to submitting an application.

Applicants should contact an Authorized Representative (AR) prior to starting an application to assess the organization’s readiness to submit an electronic application.

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 grants per year under this program. No more than one 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 active, CG2 grant in effect at any time.

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For a list of application documents, see the Package tab (press Preview) on the page above.

Contact Information:

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

Applicants may submit written comments to (email is for comments only).

Programmatic Contact
Irma Lawrence

National Institute of Food and Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 419205
Mail Stop 10000
Kansas City, MO 64141-6205

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

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