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Title III Part A Programs - Strengthening Institutions

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Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. What is the purpose of the Title III Part A Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP)?
  2. Who may apply for SIP grants?
  3. What kinds of activities can be supported with grant funds?
  4. How often are competitions generally held?
  5. What is the duration of the average grant?
  6. What is the average annual grant amount?
  7. Is there a cost matching requirement?
  8. What is the matching funds requirement for endowments? When must the matching funds be raised?
  9. What are the reporting requirements for grantees?
  10. What are the requirements for auditing funded projects?
  11. Are there program-wide performance measures?
  12. What are a few concrete examples of allowable activities?

1. What is the purpose of the Title III Part A Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP)?

SIP provides discretionary grants to eligible institutions of higher education (IHEs) to help them become self sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students, by providing funds to improve and strengthen the institution’s academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability.

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2. Who may apply for SIP grants?

IHEs that meet certain eligibility requirements may apply. For additional information about eligibility for SIP, please see the Eligibility page on this Web site.

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3. What kinds of activities can be supported with grant funds?

Grants awarded under this section shall be used for one or more of the following activities:

  • Purchase, rental or lease of scientific or laboratory equipment for educational purposes, including instructional and research purposes;
  • Construction, maintenance, renovation and improvement in classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and other instructional facilities, including the integration of computer technology into institutional facilities to create smart buildings;
  • Support of faculty exchanges, faculty development, and faculty fellowships to assist faculty in attaining advanced degrees in the field of instruction of the faculty;
  • Development and improvement of academic programs;
  • Purchase of library books, periodicals, and other educational materials, including telecommunications program material;
  • Tutoring, counseling, and student service programs designed to improve academic success;
  • Funds management, administrative management, and acquisition of equipment for use in strengthening funds management;
  • Joint use of facilities, such as laboratories and libraries;
  • Establishing or improving an endowment fund; and
  • Creating or improving facilities for Internet or other distance learning academic instruction capabilities, including purchase or rental of telecommunications technology equipment or services.
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4. How often are competitions generally held?

Generally, we invite applications for SIP grants every other year. For example, in FY 2015 the program had a competition. For FY 2016, the program did not hold a competition; rather, it funded down the FY 2015 slate.

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5. What is the duration of the average grant?

The average grant is awarded for a period of five years.

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6. What is the average annual grant amount?

The average annual amount is:

  • $400,000 for individual development grants; and
  • $600,000 for cooperative arrangement development grants.
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7. Is there a cost matching requirement?

SIP does not require cost sharing or matching unless the grantee uses a portion of its grant for establishing or improving an endowment fund. If a grantee uses a portion of its grant for endowment fund purposes, it must match those grant funds with non-federal funds.

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8. What is the matching funds requirement for endowments? When must the matching funds be raised?

Grant funds used for endowments must be matched in equal amounts with funds from non-federal sources. In addition, no more than 20 percent of an annual grant award can be used to establish or increase an endowment fund at the institution.

If a grantee institution decides to use any of its grant funds for endowment purposes, it must match those grant funds immediately with non-federal funds when it places those funds into its endowment fund.

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9. What are the reporting requirements for grantees?

SIP grantees are required to submit an interim performance report after the first six months of the grant. An annual performance report is due 90 days after each budget period ends.

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10. What are the requirements for auditing funded projects?

Grantees that spend $500,000 or more in combined federal funds (regardless of agency) during fiscal years ending after December 31, 2003, or $300,000 or more in federal funds during fiscal years ended on December 31, 2003 or earlier, are required to have an annual institutional audit. Generally, these audits, referred to as "A-133 audits" or "single audits," review expenditures of federal funds across an entire organization instead of specific costs of individual grants. These audits must be conducted in accordance with "Standards for the Audit of Governmental Organizations, Programs, Activities and Functions," published by the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Independent non-federal auditors selected by the grantee may perform these audits. Grantees that fail to meet the A-133 audit requirement may be designated as high-risk, which may affect future funding.

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11. Are there program-wide performance measures?

Yes, the following key performance measures for assessing the effectiveness of SIP have been established:

  • The percentage change, over the five-year period, of the number of full-time degree-seeking undergraduates enrolled at SIP institutions. Note that this is a long-term measure, which will be used to periodically gauge performance, beginning in FY 2009;
  • The percentage of first-time, full-time degree-seeking undergraduate students at four-year SIP institutions who were in their first year of postsecondary enrollment in the previous year and are enrolled in the current year at the same SIP institution;
  • The percentage of first-time, full-time degree-seeking undergraduate students at two-year SIP institutions who were in their first year of postsecondary enrollment in the previous year and are enrolled in the current year at the same SIP institution;
  • The percentage of first-time, full-time degree-seeking undergraduate students enrolled at four-year SIP institutions graduating within six years of enrollment; and
  • The percentage of first-time, full-time degree-seeking undergraduate students enrolled at two-year SIP institutions graduating within three years of enrollment.
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12. What are a few concrete examples of allowable activities?
  • Increasing student retention and progression through college-level courses by re-engineering student support services and supplemental instruction and providing enhanced faculty professional development;
  • Building a student tracking system that includes an early alert module and faculty reporting module to improve the institution’s information technology systems and ability to track students;
  • Strengthening assessment and integrating academic advising, academic support and academic enrichment under a new center;
  • Strengthening student information systems including the development of early warning systems with training for faculty and administrators in the new system;
  • Developing faculty development, including workshops in high impact pedagogies, technology, and instructional methods for teaching under-prepared students;
  • Developing an endowment fund to meet ongoing costs for maintenance and upgrades to technology;
  • Expanding access to high-demand STEM Programs through the conversion of high-demand courses, each with a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math emphasis to online and/or hybrid delivery; and
  • To develop six online student services—online readiness assessment, orientation, registration, tutoring, library resources and advising.

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Last Modified: 04/07/2016