Title 7 Part 3405
Title 7 → Subtitle B → Chapter XXXIV → Part 3405
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations e-CFR
Title 7 Part 3405
PART 3405—HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGE GRANTS PROGRAM
§3405.17 Grant awards.
§3405.18 Use of funds; changes.
§3405.19 Monitoring progress of funded projects.
§3405.20 Other Federal statutes and regulations that apply.
§3405.21 Confidential aspects of proposals and awards.
§3405.22 Evaluation of program.
Authority: Sec. 1470, National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977, as amended (7 U.S.C. 3316).
Source: 62 FR 39317, July 22, 1997, unless otherwise noted.
Editorial Note: Nomenclature changes to part 3405 appear at 76 FR 4808, Jan. 27, 2011.
Subpart A—General Information
§3405.1 Applicability of regulations.
(a) The regulations of this part only apply to competitive Higher Education Challenge Grants awarded under the provisions of section 1417(b)(1) of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977, as amended (NARETPA)(7 U.S.C. 3152(b)(1)), to strengthen institutional capacities, including curriculum, faculty, scientific instrumentation, instruction delivery systems, and student recruitment and retention. Section 1405 of NARETPA (7 U.S.C. 3121) designates the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the lead Federal agency for agricultural research, extension, and teaching in the food and agricultural sciences. Section 1417 of NARETPA (7 U.S.C. 3152) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture, who has delegated the authority to theDirector of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to make competitive grants to land-grant colleges and universities, to colleges and universities having significant minority enrollments and a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food and agricultural sciences, and to other colleges and universities having a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food and agricultural sciences, for a period not to exceed 5 years, to administer and conduct programs to respond to identified State, regional, national, or international educational needs in the food and agricultural sciences.
(b) To the extent that funds are available, each year NIFA will publish a Federal Register notice announcing the program and soliciting grant applications.
(c)(1) Based on the amount of funds appropriated in any fiscal year, NIFA will determine and cite in the program announcement:
(i) The targeted need area(s) to be supported or, if the entire scope of a particular targeted need area is not to be supported, the specific special interest(s) within that targeted need area to be supported;
(ii) The degree level(s) to be supported;
(iii) The maximum project period a proposal may request;
(iv) The maximum amount of funds that may be requested by an institution under a regular, complementary, or joint project proposal; and
(v) The maximum total funds that may be awarded to an institution under the program in a given fiscal year, including how funds awarded for complementary and for joint project proposals will be counted toward the institutional maximum.
(2) The program announcement will also specify the deadline date for proposal submission, the number of copies of each proposal that must be submitted, the address to which a proposal must be submitted, and whether or not Form NIFA-711, “Intent to Submit a Proposal,” is requested.
(d)(1) If it is deemed by NIFA that, for a given fiscal year, additional determinations are necessary, each, as relevant, will be stated in the program announcement. Such determinations may include:
(i) Limits on the subject matter/emphasis areas to be supported;
(ii) The maximum number of proposals that may be submitted on behalf of the same school, college, or equivalent administrative unit within an institution;
(iii) The maximum total number of proposals that may be submitted by an institution;
(iv) The minimum project period a proposal may request;
(v) The minimum amount of funds that may be requested by an institution under a regular, complementary, or joint project proposal;
(vi) The proportion of the appropriation reserved for, or available to, regular, complementary, and joint project proposals;
(vii) The proportion of the appropriation reserved for, or available to, projects in each announced targeted need area;
(viii) The proportion of the appropriation reserved for, or available to, each subject matter/emphasis area;
(ix) The maximum number of grants that may be awarded to an institution under the program in a given fiscal year; and
(x) Limits on the use of grant funds for travel or to purchase equipment, if any.
(2) The program announcement also will contain any other limitations deemed necessary by NIFA for proper conduct of the program in the applicable year.
(e) The regulations of this part do not apply to grants awarded by the Department of Agriculture under any other authority.
As used in this part:
(a) Authorized departmental officer means the Secretary or any employee of the Department who has the authority to issue or modify grant instruments on behalf of the Secretary.
(b) Authorized organizational representative means the president of the institution or the official, designated by the president of the institution, who has the authority to commit the resources of the institution.
(c) Budget period means the interval of time (usually 12 months) into which the project period is divided for budgetary and reporting purposes.
(d) Cash contributions means the applicant's cash outlay, including the outlay of money contributed to the applicant by non-Federal third parties.
(e) Citizen or national of the United States means:
(1) A citizen or native resident of a State; or,
(2) A person defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(22), who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.
(f) College or University means an educational institution in any State which:
(1) Admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate;
(2) Is legally authorized within such State to provide a program of education beyond secondary education;
(3) Provides an educational program for which a baccalaureate degree or any other higher degree is awarded;
(4) Is a public or other nonprofit institution; and
(5) Is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association.
(g) Complementary project proposal means a proposal for a project which involves coordination with one or more other projects for which funding was awarded under this program in a previous fiscal year, or for which funding is requested under this program in the current fiscal year.
(h) Department or USDA means the United States Department of Agriculture.
(i) Eligible institution means a land-grant or other U.S. college or university offering a baccalaureate or first professional degree in at least one discipline or area of the food and agricultural sciences. The definition includes a research foundation maintained by an eligible college or university.
(j) Eligible participant means, for purposes of §3405.6(b), Faculty Preparation and Enhancement for Teaching, and §3405.6(f), Student Recruitment and Retention, an individual who: Is a citizen or national of the United States, as defined in §3405.2(e); or is a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau. Where eligibility is claimed under §3405.2(e)(2), documentary evidence from the Immigration and Naturalization Service as to such eligibility must be made available to NIFA upon request.
(k) Food and agricultural sciences means basic, applied, and developmental research, extension, and teaching activities in the food, agricultural, renewable natural resources, forestry, and physical and social sciences, in the broadest sense of these terms, including but not limited to, activities concerned with the production, processing, marketing, distribution, conservation, consumption, research, and development of food and agriculturally related products and services, and inclusive of programs in agriculture, natural resources, aquaculture, forestry, veterinary medicine, home economics, rural development, and closely allied disciplines.
(l) Grantee means the eligible institution designated in the grant award document as the responsible legal entity to which a grant is awarded.
(m) Joint project proposal means a proposal for a project, which will involve the applicant institution and two or more other colleges, universities, community colleges, junior colleges, or other institutions, each of which will assume a major role in the conduct of the proposed project, and for which the applicant institution will transfer at least one-half of the awarded funds to the other institutions participating in the project. Only the applicant institution must meet the definition of “eligible institution” as specified in §3405.2(i); the other institutions participating in a joint project proposal 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).
(n) Land-grant colleges and universities means those institutions eligible to receive funds under the Act of July 2, 1862 (12 Stat. 503-505, as amended; 7 U.S.C. 301-305, 307 and 308), or the Act of August 30, 1890 (26 Stat. 417-419, as amended; 7 U.S.C. 321-326 and 328), including Tuskegee University.
(o) Matching or Cost-sharing means that portion of project costs not borne by the Federal Government, including the value of in-kind contributions.
(p) Peer review panel means a group of experts or consultants, qualified by training and experience in particular fields of science, education, or technology to give expert advice on the merit of grant applications in such fields, who evaluate eligible proposals submitted to this program in their personal area(s) of expertise.
(q) Prior approval means written approval evidencing prior consent by an authorized departmental officer as defined in §3405.2(a) of this part.
(r) Project means the particular activity within the scope of one or more of the targeted areas supported by a grant awarded under this program.
(s) Project director means the single individual designated by the grantee in the grant application and approved by the Secretary who is responsible for the direction and management of the project.
(t) Project period means the period, as stated in the award document and modifications thereto, if any, during which Federal sponsorship begins and ends.
(u) Secretary means the Secretary of Agriculture and any other officer or employee of the Department of Agriculture to whom the authority involved may be delegated.
(v) State means any one of the fifty States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the District of Columbia.
(w) Teaching means formal classroom instruction, laboratory instruction, and practicum experience in the food and agricultural sciences and matters related thereto (such as faculty development, student recruitment and services, curriculum development, instructional materials and equipment, and innovative teaching methodologies) conducted by colleges and universities offering baccalaureate or higher degrees.
(x) Third party in-kind contributions means non-cash contributions of property or services provided by non-Federal third parties, including real property, equipment, supplies and other expendable property, directly benefiting and specifically identifiable to a funded project or program.
(y) United States means the several States, the territories and possessions of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the District of Columbia.
§3405.3 Institutional eligibility.
Proposals may be submitted by land-grant and other U.S. colleges and universities offering a baccalaureate or first professional degree in at least one discipline or area of the food and agricultural sciences. Each applicant must have a demonstrable capacity for, and a significant ongoing commitment to, the teaching of food and agricultural sciences generally and to the specific need and/or subject area(s) for which a grant is requested. Awards may be made only to eligible institutions as defined in §3405.2(i).
Subpart B—Program Description
§3405.4 Purpose of the program.
The Department of Agriculture is designated as the lead Federal agency for higher education in the food and agricultural sciences. In this context, NIFA has specific responsibility to initiate and support projects to strengthen college and university teaching programs in the food and agricultural sciences. One national initiative for carrying out this responsibility is the competitive Higher Education Challenge Grants Program. A primary goal of the program is to attract and ensure a continual flow of outstanding students into food and agricultural sciences higher education programs and to provide them with an education of the highest quality available anywhere in the world and which reflects the unique needs of the Nation. It is designed to stimulate and enable colleges and universities to provide the quality of education necessary to produce baccalaureate or higher degree level graduates capable of strengthening the Nation's food and agricultural scientific and professional work force. It is intended that projects supported by the program will:
(a) Address a State, regional, national, or international educational need;
(b) Involve a creative or nontraditional approach toward addressing that need which can serve as a model to others;
(c) Encourage and facilitate better working relationships in the university science and education community, as well as between universities and the private sector, to enhance program quality and supplement available resources; and
(d) Result in benefits which will likely transcend the project duration and USDA support.
§3405.5 Matching funds.
Each application must provide for matching support from a non-Federal source. NIFA will cite in the program announcement the required percentage of institutional cost sharing.
§3405.6 Scope of program.
This program supports projects related to strengthening undergraduate or graduate teaching programs as specified in the annual program announcement. Only proposals addressing one or more of the specific targeted need areas(s) identified in the program announcement will be funded. Proposals may focus on any subject matter area(s) in the food and agricultural sciences unless limited by determinations as specified in the annual program announcement. A proposal may address a single targeted need area or multiple targeted need areas, and may be focused on a single subject matter area or multiple subject matter areas, in any combination (e.g., curriculum development in horticulture; curriculum development, faculty enhancement, and student experiential learning in animal science; faculty enhancement in food science and agribusiness management; or instruction delivery systems and student experiential learning in plant science, horticulture, and entomology). Targeted need areas will consist of one or more of the following:
(a) Curricula design and materials development. (1) The purpose of this initiative is to promote new and improved curricula and materials to increase the quality of, and continuously renew, the Nation's academic programs in the food and agricultural sciences. The overall objective is to stimulate the development and facilitate the use of exemplary education models and materials that incorporate the most recent advances in subject matter, research on teaching and learning theory, and instructional technology. Proposals may emphasize: the development of courses of study, degree programs, and instructional materials; the use of new approaches to the study of traditional subjects; or the introduction of new subjects, or new applications of knowledge, pertaining to the food and agricultural sciences.
(2) Examples include, but are not limited to, curricula and materials that promote:
(i) Raising the level of scholastic achievement of the Nation's graduates in the food and agricultural sciences.
(ii) Addressing the special needs of particular groups of students, such as minorities, gifted and talented, or those with educational backgrounds that warrant enrichment.
(iii) Using alternative instructional strategies or methodologies, including computer-assisted instruction or simulation modeling, media programs that reach large audiences efficiently and effectively, activities that provide hands-on learning experiences, and educational programs that extend learning beyond the classroom.
(iv) Using sound pedagogy, particularly with regard to recent research on how to motivate students to learn, retain, apply, and transfer knowledge, skills, and competencies.
(v) Building student competencies to integrate and synthesize knowledge from several disciplines.
(b) Faculty preparation and enhancement for teaching. (1) The purpose of this initiative is to advance faculty development in the areas of teaching competency, subject matter expertise, or student recruitment and advising skills. Teachers are central to education. They serve as models, motivators, and mentors—the catalysts of the learning process. Moreover, teachers are agents for developing, replicating, and exchanging effective teaching materials and methods. For these reasons, education can be strengthened only when teachers are adequately prepared, highly motivated, and appropriately recognized and rewarded.
(2) Each faculty recipient of support for developmental activities under §3405.6(b) must be an “eligible participant” as defined in §3405.2(j) of this part.
(3) Examples of developmental activities include, but are not limited to, those which enable teaching faculty to:
(i) Gain experience with recent developments or innovative technology relevant to their teaching responsibilities.
(ii) Work under the guidance and direction of experts who have substantial expertise in an area related to the developmental goals of the project.
(iii) Work with scientists or professionals in government, industry, or other colleges or universities to learn new applications in a field.
(iv) Obtain personal experience working with new ideas and techniques.
(v) Expand competence with new methods of information delivery, such as computer-assisted or televised instruction.
(vi) Increase understanding of the special needs of non-traditional students or students from groups that are underrepresented in the food and agricultural sciences workforce.
(c) Instruction delivery systems. (1) The purpose of this initiative is to encourage the use of alternative methods of delivering instruction to enhance the quality, effectiveness, and cost efficiency of teaching programs. The importance of this initiative is evidenced by advances in educational research which have substantiated the theory that differences in the learning styles of students often require alternative instructional methodologies. Also, the rising costs of higher education strongly suggest that colleges and universities undertake more efforts of a collaborative nature in order to deliver instruction which maximizes program quality and reduces unnecessary duplication. At the same time, advancements in knowledge and technology continue to introduce new subject matter areas which warrant consideration and implementation of innovative instruction techniques, methodologies, and delivery systems.
(2) Examples include, but are not limited to:
(i) Use of computers.
(iii) Networking via satellite communications.
(iv) Regionalization of academic programs.
(v) Mobile classrooms and laboratories.
(vi) Individualized learning centers.
(vii) Symposia, forums, regional or national workshops, etc.
(d) Scientific instrumentation for teaching. (1) The purpose of this initiative is to provide students in science-oriented courses the necessary experience with suitable, up-to-date equipment in order to involve them in work central to scientific understanding and progress. This program initiative will support the acquisition of instructional laboratory and classroom equipment to assure the achievement and maintenance of outstanding food and agricultural sciences higher education programs. A proposal may request support for acquiring new, state-of-the-art instructional scientific equipment, upgrading existing equipment, or replacing non-functional or clearly obsolete equipment.
(2) Examples include, but are not limited to:
(i) Rental or purchase of modern instruments to improve student learning experiences in courses, laboratories, and field work.
(ii) Development of new ways of using instrumentation to extend instructional capabilities.
(iii) Establishment of equipment-sharing capability via consortia or centers that develop innovative opportunities, such as mobile laboratories or satellite access to industry or government laboratories.
(e) Student experiential learning. (1) The purpose of this initiative is to further the development of student scientific and professional competencies through experiential learning programs which provide students with opportunities to solve complex problems in the context of real-world situations. Effective experiential learning is essential in preparing future graduates to advance knowledge and technology, enhance quality of life, conserve resources, and revitalize the Nation's economic competitiveness. Such experiential learning opportunities are most effective when they serve to advance decision-making and communication skills as well as technological expertise.
(2) Examples include, but are not limited to, projects which:
(i) Provide opportunities for students to participate in research projects, either as a part of an ongoing research project or in a project designed especially for this program.
(ii) Provide opportunities for students to complete apprenticeships, internships, or similar participatory learning experiences.
(iii) Expand and enrich courses which are of a practicum nature.
(iv) Provide career mentoring experiences that link students with outstanding professionals.
(f) Student recruitment and retention. (1) The purpose of this initiative is to strengthen student recruitment and retention programs in order to promote the future strength of the Nation's scientific and professional work force. The Nation's economic competitiveness and quality of life rest upon the availability of a cadre of outstanding research scientists, university faculty, and other professionals in the food and agricultural sciences. A substantial need exists to supplement efforts to attract increased numbers of academically outstanding students to prepare for careers as food and agricultural scientists and professionals. It is particularly important to augment the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the student body in order to promote a robust exchange of ideas and a more effective use of the full breadth of the Nation's intellectual resources.
(2) Each student recipient of monetary support for education costs or developmental purposes under §3405.6(f) must be enrolled at an eligible institution and meet the requirement of an “eligible participant” as defined in §3405.2(j) of this part.
(3) Examples include, but are not limited to:
(i) Special outreach programs for elementary and secondary students as well as parents, counselors, and the general public to broaden awareness of the extensive nature and diversity of career opportunities for graduates in the food and agricultural sciences.
(ii) Special activities and materials to establish more effective linkages with high school science classes.
(iii) Unique or innovative student recruitment activities, materials, and personnel.
(iv) Special retention programs to assure student progression through and completion of an educational program.
(v) Development and dissemination of stimulating career information materials.
(vi) Use of regional or national media to promote food and agricultural sciences higher education.
(vii) Providing financial incentives to enable and encourage students to pursue and complete an undergraduate or graduate degree in an area of the food and agricultural sciences.
(viii) Special recruitment programs to increase the participation of students from non-traditional or underrepresented groups in courses of study in the food and agricultural sciences.
§3405.7 Joint project proposals.
Applicants are encouraged to submit joint project proposals as defined in §3405.2(m), which address regional or national problems and which will result overall in strengthening higher education in the food and agricultural sciences. The goals of such joint initiatives should include maximizing the use of limited resources by generating a critical mass of expertise and activity focused on a targeted need area(s), increasing cost-effectiveness through achieving economies of scale, strengthening the scope and quality of a project's impact, and promoting coalition building likely to transcend the project's lifetime and lead to future ventures.
§3405.8 Complementary project proposals.
Institutions may submit proposals that are complementary in nature as defined in §3405.2(g). Such complementary project proposals may be submitted by the same or by different eligible institutions.
§3405.9 Use of funds for facilities.
Under the Higher Education Challenge Grants Program, the use of grant funds to plan, acquire, or construct a building or facility is not allowed. With prior approval, in accordance with the cost principles set forth in 2 CFR part 200, some grant funds may be used for minor alterations, renovations, or repairs deemed necessary to retrofit existing teaching spaces in order to carry out a funded project. However, requests to use grant funds for such purposes must demonstrate that the alterations, renovations, or repairs are incidental to the major purpose for which a grant is made.
[62 FR 39317, July 22, 1997, as amended at 79 FR 75999, Dec. 19, 2014]
Subpart C—Preparation of a Proposal
§3405.10 Program application materials.
Program application materials in an application package will be made available to eligible institutions upon request. These materials include the program announcement, the administrative provisions for the program, and the forms needed to prepare and submit grant applications under the program.
§3405.11 Content of a proposal.
(a) Proposal cover page. (1) Form NIFA-712, “Higher Education Proposal Cover Page,” must be completed in its entirety. Note that providing a Social Security Number is voluntary, but is an integral part of the NIFA information system and will assist in the processing of the proposal.
(2) One copy of the Form NIFA-712 must contain the pen-and-ink signatures of the Project Director(s) and authorized organizational representative for the applicant institution.
(3) The title of the project shown on the “Higher Education Proposal Cover Page” must be brief (80-character maximum) yet represent the major thrust of the project. This information will be used by the Department to provide information to the Congress and other interested parties.
(4) In block 7. of Form NIFA-712, enter “Higher Education Challenge Grants Program.”
(5) In block 8.a. of Form NIFA-712, enter “Teaching.” In block 8.b. identify the code for the targeted need area(s) as found on the reverse of the form. If a proposal focuses on multiple targeted need areas, enter each code associated with the project and place an asterisk (*) immediately following the code for the primary targeted need area. In block 8.c. identify the major area(s) of emphasis as found on the reverse of the form. If a proposal focuses on multiple areas of emphasis, enter each code associated with the project. This information will be used by program staff for the proper assignment of proposals to peer reviewers.
(6) In block 9. of Form NIFA-712, indicate if the proposal is a complementary project proposal or a joint project proposal as defined in §3405.2(g) and §3405.2(m), respectively, of this part. If it is not a complementary project proposal or a joint project proposal, identify it as a regular project proposal.
(7) In block 13. of Form NIFA-712, indicate if the proposal is a new, first-time submission or if the proposal is a resubmission of a proposal that has been submitted to, but not funded under, the Higher Education Challenge Grants Program in a previous competition.
(b) Table of contents. For ease in locating information, each proposal must contain a detailed table of contents just after the Proposal Cover Page. The Table of Contents should include page numbers for each component of the proposal. Pagination should begin immediately following the Table of Contents.
(c) Project summary. (1) A Project Summary should immediately follow the Table of Contents. The information provided in the Project Summary may be used by the program staff for a variety of purposes, including the proper assignment of proposals to peer reviewers and providing information to peer reviewers prior to the peer panel meeting. The name of the institution, the targeted need area(s), and the title of the proposal must be identified exactly as shown on the “Higher Education Proposal Cover Page.”
(2) If the proposal is a complementary project proposal, as defined in §3405.2(g) of this part, indicate such and identify the other complementary project(s) by citing the name of the submitting institution, the title of the project, the project director, and the grant number (if funded in a previous year) exactly as shown on the cover page of the complementary project so that appropriate consideration can be given to the interrelatedness of the proposals in the evaluation process.
(3) If the proposal is a joint project proposal, as defined in §3405.2(m) of this part, indicate such and identify the other participating institutions and the key faculty member or other individual responsible for coordinating the project at each institution.
(4) The Project Summary should be a concise description of the proposed activity suitable for publication by the Department to inform the general public about awards under the program. The text must not exceed one page, single-spaced. The Project Summary should be a self-contained description of the activity which would result if the proposal is funded by USDA. It should include: The objectives of the project; a synopsis of the plan of operation; a description of how the project will strengthen higher education in the food and agricultural sciences in the United States; and the plans for disseminating project results. The Project Summary should be written so that a technically literate reader can evaluate the use of Federal funds in support of the project.
(d) Resubmission of a proposal—(1) Resubmission of previously unfunded proposals. If a proposal has been submitted previously, but was not funded, such should be indicated in block 13. on Form NIFA-712, “Higher Education Proposal Cover Page,” and the following information should be included in the proposal: The fiscal year(s) in which the proposal was submitted previously; a summary of the peer reviewers' comments; and how these comments have been addressed in the current proposal, including the page numbers in the current proposal where the peer reviewers' comments have been addressed. This information may be provided as a section of the proposal following the Project Summary and preceding the proposal narrative or it may be placed in the Appendix (see §3405.11(i)). In either case, the location of this information should be indicated in the Table of Contents. Further, when possible, the information should be presented in tabular format. Applicants who choose to resubmit proposals that were previously submitted, but not funded, should note that resubmitted proposals must compete equally with newly submitted proposals. Submitting a proposal that has been revised based on a previous peer review panel's critique of the proposal does not guarantee the success of the resubmitted proposal.
(2) Resubmission of previously funded proposals. The Higher Education Challenge Grants Program is not designed to support activities that essentially are repetitive in nature over multiple grant awards. Project directors who have had their projects funded previously are discouraged from resubmitting relatively identical proposals for further funding. Proposals that are sequential continuations or new stages of previously funded Challenge Grants Program projects must compete with first-time proposals. Therefore, project directors should thoroughly demonstrate how the project proposed in the current application expands substantially upon a previously funded project (i.e., demonstrate how the new project will advance the former project to the next level of attainment or will achieve expanded goals). The proposal must also show the degree to which the new phase promotes innovativeness and creativity beyond the scope of the previously funded project.
(e) Narrative of a proposal. The narrative portion of the proposal is limited to 20 pages in length. The one-page Project Summary is not included in the 20-page limitation. The narrative must be typed on one side of the page only, using a font no smaller than 12 point, and double-spaced. All margins must be at least one inch. All pages following the Table of Contents must be paginated. It should be noted that peer reviewers will not be required to read beyond 20 pages of the narrative to evaluate the proposal. The narrative should contain the following sections:
(1) Potential for advancing the quality of education—(i) Impact. (A) Identify the targeted need area(s).
(B) Clearly state the specific instructional problem or opportunity to be addressed.
(C) Describe how and by whom the focus and scope of the project were determined. Summarize the body of knowledge which substantiates the need for the proposed project.
(D) Describe ongoing or recently completed significant activities related to the proposed project for which previous funding was received under this program.
(E) Discuss how the project will be of value at the State, regional, national, or international level(s).
(F) Discuss how the benefits to be derived from the project will transcend the applicant institution or the grant period. Also discuss the probabilities of the project being adapted by other institutions. For example, can the project serve as a model for others?
(ii) Continuation plans. Discuss the likelihood of, or plans for, continuation or expansion of the project beyond USDA support. For example, does the institution's long-range budget or academic plan provide for the realistic continuation or expansion of the initiative undertaken by this project after the end of the grant period, are plans for eventual self-support built into the project, are plans being made to institutionalize the program if it meets with success, and are there indications of other continuing non-Federal support?
(iii) Innovation. Describe the degree to which the proposal reflects an innovative or non-traditional approach to solving a higher education problem or strengthening the quality of higher education in the food and agricultural sciences.
(iv) Products and results. Explain the expected products and results and their potential impact on strengthening food and agricultural sciences higher education in the United States.
(2) Overall approach and cooperative linkages—(i) Proposed approach—(A) bjectives. Cite and discuss the specific objectives to be accomplished under the project.
(B) Plan of operation. (1) Describe procedures for accomplishing the objectives of the project.
(2) Describe plans for management of the project to ensure its proper and efficient administration.
(3) Describe the way in which resources and personnel will be used to conduct the project.
(C) Timetable. Provide a timetable for conducting the project. Identify all important project milestones and dates as they relate to project start-up, execution, evaluation, dissemination, and close-out.
(ii) Evaluation plans. (A) Provide a plan for evaluating the accomplishment of stated objectives during the conduct of the project. Indicate the criteria, and corresponding weight of each, to be used in the evaluation process, describe any data to be collected and analyzed, and explain the methodology that will be used to determine the extent to which the needs underlying the project are met.
(B) Provide a plan for evaluating the effectiveness of the end results upon conclusion of the project. Include the same kinds of information requested in §3405.11(e)(2)(ii)(A).
(iii) Dissemination plans. Discuss plans to disseminate project results and products. Identify target audiences and explain methods of communication.
(iv) Partnerships and collaborative efforts. (A) Explain how the project will maximize partnership ventures and collaborative efforts to strengthen food and agricultural sciences higher education (e.g., involvement of faculty in related disciplines at the same institution, joint projects with other colleges or universities, or cooperative activities with business or industry). Also explain how it will stimulate academia, the States, or the private sector to join with the Federal partner in enhancing food and agricultural sciences higher education.
(B) Provide evidence, via letters from the parties involved, that arrangements necessary for collaborative partnerships or joint initiatives have been discussed and realistically can be expected to come to fruition, or actually have been finalized contingent on an award under this program. Letters must be signed by an official who has the authority to commit the resources of the organization. Such letters should be referenced in the plan of operation, but the actual letters should be included in the Appendix section of the proposal. Any potential conflict(s) of interest that might result from the proposed collaborative arrangements must be discussed in detail.
(3) Institutional commitment and resources—(i) Institutional commitment. Discuss the institution's commitment to the project. For example, substantiate that the institution attributes a high priority to the project, discuss how the project will contribute to the achievement of the institution's long-term (five-to ten-year) goals, explain how the project will help satisfy the institution's high-priority objectives, or show how this project is linked to and supported by the institution's strategic plan.
(ii) Institutional resources. Document the commitment of institutional resources to the project, and show that the institutional resources to be made available to the project, when combined with the support requested from USDA, will be adequate to carry out the activities of the project. Discuss institutional facilities, equipment, computer services, and other appropriate resources available to the project.
(f) Key personnel. A Form NIFA-708, “Summary Vita—Teaching Proposal,” should be included for each key person associated with the project.
(g) Budget and cost-effectiveness—(1) Budget form. (i) Prepare Form NIFA-713, “Higher Education Budget,” in accordance with instructions provided with the form. Proposals may request support for a period to be identified in each year's program announcement. A budget form is required for each year of requested support. In addition, a summary budget is required detailing the requested total support for the overall project period. Form NIFA-713 may be reproduced as needed by proposers. Funds may be requested under any of the categories listed on the form, provided that the item or service for which support is requested is allowable under the authorizing legislation, the applicable Federal cost principles, and these administrative provisions, and can be justified as necessary for the successful conduct of the proposed project.
(ii) The approved negotiated instruction rate or the rate allowed by law should be used when computing indirect costs. If a reduced rate of indirect costs is voluntarily requested from USDA, the remaining allowable indirect costs may be used as matching funds.
(2) Matching funds. When documenting matching contributions, use the following guidelines:
(i) When preparing the column of Form NIFA-713 entitled “Applicant Contributions to Matching Funds,” only those costs to be contributed by the applicant for the purposes of matching should be shown. The total amount of this column should be indicated in item M.
(ii) In item N of Form NIFA-713, show a total dollar amount for Cash Contributions from both the applicant and any third parties; also show a total dollar amount (based on current fair market value) for Non-cash Contributions from both the applicant and any third parties.
(iii) To be counted toward the matching requirements stated in §3405.5 of this part, proposals must include written verification of any actual commitments of matching support (including both cash and non-cash contributions) from third parties. Written verification means—
(A) For any third party cash contributions, a separate pledge agreement for each donation, signed by the authorized organizational representative(s) of the donor organization and the applicant institution, which must include:
(1) The name, address, and telephone number of the donor;
(2) The name of the applicant institution;
(3) The title of the project for which the donation is made;
(4) The dollar amount of the cash donation; and
(5) A statement that the donor will pay the cash contribution during the grant period; and
(B) For any third party non-cash contributions, a separate pledge agreement for each contribution, signed by the authorized organizational representative(s) of the donor organization and the applicant institution, which must include:
(1) The name, address, and telephone number of the donor;
(2) The name of the applicant institution;
(3) The title of the project for which the donation is made;
(4) A good faith estimate of the current fair market value of the non-cash contribution; and
(5) A statement that the donor will make the contribution during the grant period.
(iv) All pledge agreements referenced in §3405.11(g)(2)(iii) (A) and (B) must be placed in the proposal immediately following Form NIFA-713. The sources and amounts of all matching support from outside the applicant institution should be summarized in the Budget Narrative section of the proposal.
(v) Applicants should refer to 2 CFR part 200 and part 400 for further guidance and other requirements relating to matching and allowable costs.
(3) Chart on shared budget for joint project proposal. For a joint project proposal, a plan must be provided indicating how funds will be distributed to the participating institutions. The budget section of a joint project proposal should include a chart indicating: The names of the participating institutions; the amount of funds to be disbursed to those institutions; and the way in which such funds will be used in accordance with items A through L of Form NIFA-713, “Higher Education Budget.” If a proposal is not for a joint project, such a chart is not required.
(4) Budget narrative. (i) Discuss how the budget specifically supports the proposed project activities. Explain how such budget items as professional or technical staff, travel, equipment, etc., are essential to achieving project objectives.
(ii) Justify that the total budget, including funds requested from USDA and any matching support provided, will be adequate to carry out the activities of the project. Provide a summary of sources and amounts of all third party matching support.
(iii) Justify the project's cost-effectiveness. Show how the project maximizes the use of limited resources, optimizes educational value for the dollar, achieves economies of scale, or leverages additional funds. For example, discuss how the project has the potential to generate a critical mass of expertise and activity focused on a targeted need area, or to promote coalition building that could lead to future ventures.
(iv) Include the percentage of time key personnel will work on the project, both during the academic year and summer. When salaries of university personnel will be paid by a combination of USDA and institutional funds, the total compensation must not exceed the faculty member's regular annual compensation. In addition, the total commitment of time devoted to the project, when combined with time for teaching and research duties, other sponsored agreements, and other employment obligations to the institution, must not exceed 100 percent of the normal workload for which the employee is compensated, in accordance with established university policies and applicable Federal cost principles.
(v) If the proposal addresses more than one targeted need area (e.g., student experiential learning and instruction delivery systems), estimate the proportion of the funds requested from USDA that will support each respective targeted need area.
(h) Current and pending support. Each applicant must complete Form NIFA-663, “Current and Pending Support,” identifying any other current public- or private-sponsored projects, in addition to the proposed project, to which key personnel listed in the proposal under consideration have committed portions of their time, whether or not salary support for the person(s) involved is included in the budgets of the various projects. This information should also be provided for any pending proposals which are currently being considered by, or which will be submitted in the near future to other possible sponsors, including other USDA programs or agencies. Concurrent submission of identical or similar projects to other possible sponsors will not prejudice the review or evaluation of a project under this program.
(i) Appendix. Each project narrative is expected to be complete in itself and to meet the 20-page limitation. Inclusion of material in an Appendix should not be used to circumvent the 20-page limitation of the proposal narrative. However, in those instances where inclusion of supplemental information is necessary to guarantee the peer review panel's complete understanding of a proposal or to illustrate the integrity of the design or a main thesis of the proposal, such information may be included in an Appendix. Examples of supplemental material are photographs, journal reprints, brochures and other pertinent materials which are deemed to be illustrative of major points in the narrative but unsuitable for inclusion in the proposal narrative itself. Information on previously submitted proposals may also be presented in the Appendix (refer to §3405.11(d)). When possible, information in the Appendix should be presented in tabular format. A complete set of the Appendix material must be attached to each copy of the grant application submitted. The Appendix must be identified with the title of the project as it appears on Form NIFA-712 of the proposal and the name(s) of the project director(s). The Appendix must be referenced in the proposal narrative.
[62 FR 39317, July 22, 1997, as amended at 79 FR 75999, Dec. 19, 2014]
Subpart D—Submission of a Proposal
§3405.12 Intent to submit a proposal.
To assist NIFA in preparing for the review of proposals, institutions planning to submit proposals may be requested to complete Form NIFA-711, “Intent to Submit a Proposal,” provided in the application package. NIFA will determine each year if Intent to Submit a Proposal forms will be requested and provide such information in the program announcement. If Intent to Submit a Proposal forms are required, one form should be completed and returned for each proposal an institution anticipates submitting. Submitting this form does not commit an institution to any course of action, nor does failure to send this form prohibit an institution from submitting a proposal.
§3405.13 When and where to submit a proposal.
The program announcement will provide the deadline date for submitting a proposal, the number of copies of each proposal that must be submitted, and the address to which proposals must be submitted.
Subpart E—Proposal Review and Evaluation
§3405.14 Proposal review.
The proposal evaluation process includes both internal staff review and merit evaluation by peer review panels comprised of scientists, educators, business representatives, and Government officials. Peer review panels will be selected and structured to provide optimum expertise and objective judgment in the evaluation of proposals.
§3405.15 Evaluation criteria.
The maximum score a proposal can receive is 200 points. Unless otherwise stated in the annual solicitation published in the Federal Register, the peer review panel will consider the following criteria and weights to evaluate proposals submitted:
|(a) Potential for advancing the quality of education:|
|This criterion is used to assess the likelihood that the project will have a substantial impact upon and advance the quality of food and agricultural sciences higher education by strengthening institutional capacities through promoting education reform to meet clearly delineated needs.|
|(1) Impact—Does the project address a targeted need area(s)? Is the problem or opportunity clearly documented? Does the project address a State, regional, national, or international problem or opportunity? Will the benefits to be derived from the project transcend the applicant institution and/or the grant period? Is it probable that other institutions will adapt this project for their own use? Can the project serve as a model for others?||20 points.|
|(2) Continuation plans—Are there plans for continuation or expansion of the project beyond USDA support? Are there indications of external, non-Federal support? Are there realistic plans for making the project self-supporting?||10 points.|
|(3) Innovation—Are significant aspects of the project based on an innovative or a non-traditional approach toward solving a higher education problem or strengthening the quality of higher education in the food and agricultural sciences? If successful, is the project likely to lead to education reform?||20 points.|
|(4) Products and results—Are the expected products and results of the project clearly explained? Do they have the potential to strengthen food and agricultural sciences higher education? Are the products likely to be of high quality? Will the project contribute to a better understanding of or improvement in the quality, distribution, effectiveness, or racial, ethnic, or gender diversity of the Nation's food and agricultural scientific and professional expertise base?||20 points.|
|(b) Overall approach and cooperative linkages:|
|This criterion relates to the soundness of the proposed approach and the quality of the partnerships likely to evolve as a result of the project.|
|(1) Proposed approach—Do the objectives and plan of operation appear to be sound and appropriate relative to the targeted need area(s) and the impact anticipated? Are the procedures managerially, educationally, and/or scientifically sound? Is the overall plan integrated with or does it expand upon other major efforts to improve the quality of food and agricultural sciences higher education? Does the timetable appear to be readily achievable?||20 points.|
|(2) Evaluation—Are the evaluation plans adequate and reasonable? Do they allow for continuous and/or frequent feedback during the life of the project? Are the individuals involved in project evaluation skilled in evaluation strategies and procedures? Can they provide an objective evaluation? Do evaluation plans facilitate the measurement of project progress and outcomes?||10 points.|
|(3) Dissemination—Does the proposed project include clearly outlined and realistic mechanisms that will lead to widespread dissemination of project results, including national electronic communication systems, publications, presentations at professional conferences, and/or use by faculty development or research/teaching skills workshops||10 points.|
|(4) Partnerships and collaborative efforts—Will the project expand partnership ventures among disciplines at a university, between colleges and universities, or with the private sector? Will the project lead to long-term relationships or cooperative partnerships that are likely to enhance program quality or supplement resources available to food and agricultural sciences higher education?||20 points.|
|(c) Institutional commitment and resources:|
|This criterion relates to the institution's commitment to the project and the adequacy of institutional resources available to carry out the project.|
|(1) Institutional commitment—Is there evidence to substantiate that the institution attributes a high-priority to the project, that the project is linked to the achievement of the institution's long-term goals, that it will help satisfy the institution's high-priority objectives, or that the project is supported by the institution's strategic plans?||10 points.|
|(2) Institutional resources—Will the project have adequate support to carry out the proposed activities? Will the project have reasonable access to needed resources such as instructional instrumentation, facilities, computer services, library and other instruction support resources?||10 points.|
|(d) Key personnel:||20 points.|
|This criterion relates to the number and qualifications of the key persons who will carry out the project. Are designated project personnel qualified to carry out a successful project? Are there sufficient numbers of personnel associated with the project to achieve the stated objectives and the anticipated outcomes?|
|(e) Budget and cost-effectiveness:|
|This criterion relates to the extent to which the total budget adequately supports the project and is cost-effective.|
|(1) Budget—Is the budget request justifiable? Are costs reasonable and necessary? Will the total budget be adequate to carry out project activities? Are the source(s) and amount(s) of non-Federal matching support clearly identified and appropriately documented? For a joint project proposal, is the shared budget explained clearly and in sufficient detail?||10 points.|
|(2) Cost-effectiveness—Is the proposed project cost-effective? Does it demonstrate a creative use of limited resources, maximize educational value per dollar of USDA support, achieve economies of scale, leverage additional funds or have the potential to do so, focus expertise and activity on a targeted need area, or promote coalition building for current or future ventures?||10 points.|
|(f) Overall quality of proposal:||10 points.|
|This criterion relates to the degree to which the proposal complies with the application guidelines and is of high quality. Is the proposal enhanced by its adherence to instructions (table of contents, organization, pagination, margin and font size, the 20-page limitation, appendices, etc.); accuracy of forms; clarity of budget narrative; well prepared vitae for all key personnel associated with the project; and presentation (are ideas effectively presented, clearly articulated, and thoroughly explained, etc.)?|
Subpart F—Supplementary Information
§3405.16 Access to peer review information.
After final decisions have been announced, NIFA will, upon request, inform the project director of the reasons for its decision on a proposal. Verbatim copies of summary reviews, not including the identity of the peer reviewers, will be made available to respective project directors upon specific request.
§3405.17 Grant awards.
(a) General. Within the limit of funds available for such purpose, the authorized departmental officer shall make project grants to those responsible, eligible applicants whose proposals are judged most meritorious in the announced targeted need areas under the evaluation criteria and procedures set forth in this part. The beginning of the project period shall be no later than September 30 of the Federal fiscal year in which the project is approved for support. All funds granted under this part shall be expended solely for the purpose for which the funds are granted in accordance with the approved application and budget, the regulations of this part, the terms and conditions of the award, the applicable Federal cost principles, and 2 CFR part 200.
(b) Organizational management information. Specific management information relating to a proposing institution shall be submitted on a one-time basis prior to the award of a project grant identified under this part if such information has not been provided previously under this or another program for which the sponsoring agency is responsible. Copies of the forms used to fulfill this requirement will be sent to the proposing institution by the sponsoring agency as part of the pre-award process.
(c) Notice of grant award. The grant award document shall include at a minimum the following:
(1) Legal name and address of performing organization.
(2) Title of project.
(3) Name(s) and address(es) of project director(s).
(4) Identifying grant number assigned by the Department.
(5) Project period, which specifies how long the Department intends to support the effort without requiring reapplication for funds.
(6) Total amount of Federal financial assistance approved during the project period.
(7) Legal authority(ies) under which the grant is awarded.
(8) Approved budget plan for categorizing allocable project funds to accomplish the stated purpose of the grant award.
(9) Other information or provisions deemed necessary by the Department to carry out its granting activities or to accomplish the purpose of this particular project grant.
(d) Obligation of the Federal Government. Neither the approval of any application nor the award of any project grant shall legally commit or obligate NIFA or the United States to provide further support of a project or any portion thereof.
[62 FR 39317, July 22, 1997, as amended at 79 FR 75999, Dec. 19, 2014]
§3405.18 Use of funds; changes.
(a) Delegation of fiscal responsibility. The grantee may not in whole or in part delegate or transfer to another person, institution, or organization the responsibility for use or expenditure of grant funds.
(b) Change in project plans. (1) The permissible changes by the grantee, project director(s), or other key project personnel in the approved project grant shall be limited to changes in methodology, techniques, or other aspects of the project to expedite achievement of the project's approved goals. If the grantee or the project director(s) are uncertain as to whether a change complies with this provision, the question must be referred to the Department for a final determination.
(2) Changes in approved goals, or objectives, shall be requested by the grantee and approved in writing by the authorized departmental officer prior to effecting such changes. In no event shall requests for such changes be approved that are outside the scope of the approved project.
(3) Changes in approved project leadership or the replacement or reassignment of other key project personnel shall be requested by the grantee and approved in writing by the authorized departmental officer prior to effecting such changes.
(4) Transfers of actual performance of the substantive programmatic work in whole or in part and provisions for payment of funds, whether or not Federal funds are involved, shall be requested by the grantee and approved in writing by the authorized departmental officer prior to effecting such transfers.
(c) Changes in project period. The project period may be extended by the authorized departmental officer without additional financial support for such additional period(s) as the authorized departmental officer determines may be necessary to complete or fulfill the purposes of an approved project. However, due to statutory restriction, no grant may be extended beyond five years from the original start date of the grant, or pre-award date, if applicable. Grant extensions shall be conditioned upon prior request by the grantee and approval in writing by the authorized departmental officer, unless prescribed otherwise in the terms and conditions of a grant.
(d) Changes in approved budget. Changes in an approved budget shall be requested by the grantee and approved in writing by the authorized departmental officer prior to instituting such changes if the revision will:
(1) Involve transfers of amounts budgeted for indirect costs to absorb an increase in direct costs;
(2) Involve transfers of amounts budgeted for direct costs to accommodate changes in indirect cost rates negotiated during a budget period and not approved when a grant was awarded; or
(3) Involve transfers or expenditures of amounts requiring prior approval as set forth in the applicable Federal cost principles, Departmental regulations, or in the grant award.
§3405.19 Monitoring progress of funded projects.
(a) During the tenure of a grant, project directors must attend at least one national project directors meeting, if offered, in Washington, DC or any other announced location. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss project and grant management opportunities for collaborative efforts, future directions for education reform, and opportunities to enhance dissemination of exemplary end products/results.
(b) An Annual Performance Report must be submitted to the USDA program contact person within 90 days after the completion of the first year of the project and annually thereafter during the life of the grant. Generally, the Annual Performance Reports should include a summary of the overall progress toward project objectives, current problems or unusual developments, the next year's activities, and any other information that is pertinent to the ongoing project or which may be specified in the terms and conditions of the award.
(c) A Final Performance Report must be submitted to the USDA program contact person within 90 days after the expiration date of the project. The expiration date is specified in the award documents and modifications thereto, if any. Generally, the Final Performance Report should be a summary of the completed project, including: A review of project objectives and accomplishments; a description of any products and outcomes resulting from the project; activities undertaken to disseminate products and outcomes; partnerships and collaborative ventures that resulted from the project; future initiatives that are planned as a result of the project; the impact of the project on the project director(s), the institution, and the food and agricultural sciences higher education system; and data on project personnel and beneficiaries. The Final Performance Report should be accompanied by samples or copies of any products or publications resulting from or developed by the project. The Final Performance Report must also contain any other information which may be specified in the terms and conditions of the award.
§3405.20 Other Federal statutes and regulations that apply.
(a) The Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) issued guidance on Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards at 2 CFR part 200 on December 26, 2013. In 2 CFR 400.1, the Department adopted OMB's guidance in subparts A through F of 2 CFR part 200, as supplemented by 2 CFR part 400, as the Department's policies and procedures for uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for federal awards. As a result, this regulation contains references to 2 CFR part 200 as it has regulatory effect for the Department's programs and activities.”
(b) Several other Federal statutes and/or regulations apply to grant proposals considered for review or to research project grants awarded under this part. These include but are not limited to:
2 CFR part 200—Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.
2 CFR part 180 and Part 417—OMB Guidelines to Agencies on Government-Wide Debarment and Suspension (Nonprocurement) and USDA Nonprocurement Debarment and Suspension
7 CFR part 1c—USDA Implementation of the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects.
7 CFR 1.1—USDA Implementation of Freedom of Information Act.
7 CFR part 3—USDA Implementation of OMB Circular A-129 Regarding Debt Collection.
7 CFR part 15, subpart A—USDA Implementation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
7 CFR part 3407—NIFA Procedures To Implement The National Environmental Policy Act;
29 U.S.C. 794 (section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and 7 CFR part 15B (USDA implementation of statute)—prohibiting discrimination based upon physical or mental handicap in Federally assisted programs; and
35 U.S.C. 200 et seq.—Bayh-Dole Act, controlling allocation of rights to inventions made by employees of small business firms and domestic nonprofit organizations, including universities, in Federally assisted programs (implementing regulations are contained in 37 CFR part 401).
[79 FR 75999, Dec. 19, 2014]
§3405.21 Confidential aspects of proposals and awards.
When a proposal results in a grant, it becomes a part of the record of the Agency's transactions, available to the public upon specific request. Information that the Secretary determines to be of a privileged nature will be held in confidence to the extent permitted by law. Therefore, any information that the applicant wishes to have considered as privileged should be clearly marked as such and sent in a separate statement, two copies of which should accompany the proposal. The original copy of a proposal that does not result in a grant will be retained by the Agency for a period of one year. Other copies will be destroyed. Such a proposal will be released only with the consent of the applicant or to the extent required by law. A proposal may be withdrawn at any time prior to the final action thereon.
§3405.22 Evaluation of program.
Grantees should be aware that NIFA may, as a part of its own program evaluation activities, carry out in-depth evaluations of assisted activities. Thus, grantees should be prepared to cooperate with NIFA personnel, or persons retained by NIFA, evaluating the institutional context and the impact of any supported project. Grantees may be asked to provide general information on any students and faculty supported, in whole or in part, by a grant awarded under this program; information that may be requested includes, but is not limited to, standardized academic achievement test scores, grade point average, academic standing, career patterns, age, race/ethnicity, gender, citizenship, and disability.