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$75 Million in Federal Grants Awarded to Improve College Access and Completion

The U.S. Department of Education today has announced the winners of a $75 million grant competition to improve college access and completion. Awards between $1.6 million and $4 million will be given to 24 colleges and universities under the new "First in the World" federal grant program

The initiative was introduced in May as an effort to spur innovation in higher education and nearly 500 applications were submitted.

"The best solutions to our greatest educational challenges won't come from anyone here in Washington, but rather from great schools and great presidents like the ones that successfully competed for these awards," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press call this afternoon. "Our goal is simply to support their efforts and then to help them scale what works."

The winners of the grants are from 17 states and many represent partnerships between colleges, nonprofits, businesses, and community organizations. Money was granted to 19 four-year institutions and five two-year colleges. Six of the grantees are minority-serving institutions, which comprise $20 million of the funds.

Each project was required to tackle at least one of four areas:

  1. Increasing college access and completion;
  2. Increasing community college transfer rates;
  3. Increasing STEM enrollment and completion;
  4. Reducing time to completion.

Officials said the majority of grantees will focus on access in some way with their projects.

The winning applicants include efforts to introduce a game-based tool to help high school students in the college search process, redesign college courses to be more engaging with student-centered learning, and restructure developmental, or remedial, education to accelerate the time to degree completion.

"The grants represent a major step forward in identifying and bringing to scale the innovative practices to enable a greater share of college students to succeed, while also reducing the cost of a college education and maintaining quality in our nation's colleges and universities," said Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz on the press call.

Duncan said there were many other worthy applications that the department would like to fund, but there were not enough resources. In next year's education budget, the administration is asking for $100 million to expand the grant program.

Officials said updates on the projects will be released prior to the end of the four-year grant cycle to share best practices on what approaches are working.

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