Funding GRANTS
What Should I Know About ED Grants? -- Let's Get Started
September 1998
Archived Information


The process of making a federal grant begins long before an applicant or grantee ever sends a piece of paper to the government. Federal grants have their origin in the legislative process of Congress and the regulatory process of federal agencies. A federal agency such as the Department of Education must set up a structure for the orderly review, award, and administration of grants. This section describes the way discretionary grant programsare set up in the Department and tells you how you can learn more about the grant opportunities that are available to you.

What is a discretionary grant?

Unlike a formula grant, a discretionary grant awards funds on the basis of a competitive process. The Department reviews applications in light of the legislative and regulatory requirements established for a program. This review process gives the Department discretion to determine which applications best address the program requirements and are, therefore, most worthy of funding.

What is a cooperative agreement?

A cooperative agreement is a type of discretionary grant the Department awards when it determines that substantial involvement with the grantee is necessary during the performance of a funded project. Substantial involvement might include such things as ongoing departmental participation in the project, unusually close collaboration with the recipient, and/or possible intervention or direct operational involvement in the review and approval of the successive stages of project activities.

How does the Department set up discretionary grant programs?

Congress establishes discretionary grant programs through authorizing legislation and appropriations legislation. The Department then usually writes program regulations based on the authorizing legislation, which describe how the programs are to be administered. After these program regulations are published in final form and Congress appropriates funds for the program, the Department can elicit applications and award grants.

Who runs the Department’s discretionary grant programs?

Six Principal Offices in the Department are responsible for program administration. Each office is responsible for overseeing a portion of the programs established by Congress and administered by the Department. The Principal Offices are:

  • Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs (OBEMLA)
  • Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)
  • Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
  • Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE)
  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
  • Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)

Within the Principal Offices, there are program offices and Discretionary Grant Teams (Grant Teams), which administer the Department’s discretionary grant programs on a daily basis. The grant team publishes the program announcement, coordinates the review of applications that are received, makes funding recommendations, and awards grants to successful applicants. They are supported in these activities by the Grants Policy and Oversight Staff (GPOS), which is responsible for developing overall discretionary grants policy for the Department and overseeing the discretionary grants process.

How do I find out about the Department’s discretionary grant programs?

There are different ways to get information about the discretionary grant programs at the Department of Education:

  • The Department maintains a site on the World Wide Web. You can access information on discretionary grant funding by Principal Office and by types of programs available by logging on to the Department’s Web site at: www.ed.gov.
  • To get a general overview of the Department’s programs, you can write or phone the Department to get a copy of the Guide to U.S. Department of Education Programs (the Guide), or you can access it through the Department’s Web site. The Guide describes the various discretionary grant programs sponsored by the Department and gives a telephone number for each program to call for further information.
  • The Department publishes an application notice in the Federal Register to inform potential applicants of each new discretionary grant competition. An application notice invites applications for one or more competitions, gives basic program and funding information on each competition, and informs potential applicants when and where they may obtain applications. Program offices publish an application notice for each individual program.
  • Program Offices also include their proposed program schedules in the Department’s Combined Application Notice (CAN). The CAN is generally published once a year in the Federal Register and is posted on the Department’s Web site. It lists most of the discretionary grant competitions planned for each Principal Office for the coming year, and includes anticipated application deadlines and other pertinent information.

How do I learn if I am eligible to receive a discretionary grant?

The first thing to consider before applying for a grant is to determine whether your organization is eligible under the program. If you are not sure about the grant programs under which you would be eligible, start with the Guide, discussed above. The Guide has an index to help you identify the grant program(s) in which you might be interested. The Guide also gives the CFDA number for each grant program, a system of numbering based on the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. To receive the appropriate information, it is essential that you use this number when contacting the Department about the specific grant program(s) of interest to you.

Once you know the number and title of the grant program(s) under which you want to apply, you may wish to review the program regulations provided in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). (Information about obtaining a copy of the CFR is given in the section, ‘Other Information,’ which begins after the ‘Glossary’ section of this booklet.)

The CFR is updated once a year only and, therefore, might not include recent changes to program regulations. You should contact the program office listed in the Guide to verify the most recent version of the program regulations.

The application package lists the eligibility requirements, generally drawn from the legislation establishing the program. Eligibility might be limited to a particular type of organization (e.g., only state education agencies), organizations that serve only a particular group (e.g., disadvantaged students), or organizations that meet some other criteria. In some cases, an organization wishing to apply under a particular program must first apply to the Department to be certified as eligible for that program. Requirements vary from program to program; read the application package carefully before preparing your application.

Information about the specific eligibility requirements for a program is also available in the application notice or ‘Notice of Closing’ that the Department publishes in the Federal Register for each new competition.
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Last Modified: 10/26/2004