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May 12, 2015

U.S. Department of Education announces $60 Million available for First in the World Grant Competition

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the availability of $60 million in Fiscal Year 2015 in the First in the World (FITW) program. FITW grants will fund the development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies to improve postsecondary education attainment.  Of the $60 million available this year, the competition has a set-aside of $16 million for institutions designated as minority-serving institutions, including Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

“Through the First in the World program, the Obama Administration is calling on colleges and universities to help develop the most promising approaches to improve outcomes for students, particularly for those who are underrepresented, underprepared or from low income backgrounds,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We look forward to hearing from institutions as they seek to pioneer new and innovative ways to increase college success.”

The First in the World Program provides grants to colleges and universities to test new approaches to fostering success among disadvantaged students.  The goals of the grant program are to improve student outcomes and to build a stronger evidence base of what works so that all colleges and universities can better shape their programs.  The first $75 million in grants were awarded in 2014 to 24 colleges and universities.  

FITW is an evidence-based program that draws on the design of the Department’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). This year’s FITW competition will feature two types of grants: development grants focused on testing innovative practices associated with student success; and validation grants with more rigorous evidence criteria, intended to confirm the effectiveness of promising practices when implemented more broadly.  Successful applicants must demonstrate not only an innovative project design, but outline a rigorous plan for how the project will be evaluated to demonstrate its effectiveness.

The deadline for applications is June 26, 2015. All grants will be awarded no later than September 30, 2015. For additional information, visit

Applying for a grant

For the first time this year, the First in the World program will have two tiers: a “development” tier for innovative projects that are supported by “strong theory” (defined in the grant announcement) and larger grants in the “validation” tier will be awarded to applications for interventions supported by significant evidence. Since a key goal of the FITW program is building an evidence base, all funded grants will include rigorous evaluation.

Listed below are the series of pre-application webinars the Office of Postsecondary Education will host:




May 14, 2015

3:00 p.m., EST

FITW—Development Grants

May 15, 2015

3:00 p.m., EST

FITW—Validation Grants

May 19, 2015

3:00 p.m., EST

FITW—Evidence & Evaluation Requirements

To learn more about this grant opportunity or to register for a webinar, please visit the First in the World home page on the Office of Postsecondary Education’s website.

Call for peer reviewers

Peer reviewers, not ED staff, review and rate all FITW proposals – they play a critical role! So we need strong, knowledgeable, innovation-minded peer reviewers. If your institution is not applying for a grant, please consider applying, or encourage colleagues with the requisite skills to apply. Information can be found on the FITW website.