Guest post by Andrew Ujifusa
A new, $75 million grant program unveiled Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education is intended to help institutions of higher education that want to try new strategies for improving college access, affordability, and achievement.
The goal of the "First in the World" program, according to a May 15 announcement from the Education Department, is to "catalyze the work of institutions of higher education that are demonstrating how to develop and evaluate new approaches that can expand college access and improve student learning while reducing costs." The program is also crafted specifically to help "underrepresented, underprepared, or low-income students."
Colleges and universities will be able to use the grant money to improve transfer rates between community colleges and four-year institutions; close achievement gaps between underrepresented, underprepared, and low-income students and their peers; and increase the enrollment and participation rates of those targeted students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, fields. Of the $75 million available, $20 million will be set aside for colleges and universities that are designated as minority-serving institutions, the department said.
According to the announcement, "First in the World" is modeled on another grant program overseen by the Education Department, the Investing in Innovation (or i3) Fund, intended to spark creative solutions to common challenges in schools.
Last year, President Barack Obama also released a plan to make college more accessible.