1) What is the meaning of "postsecondary"? Will LAAP fund elementary and secondary education?
Roughly speaking, "postsecondary" refers to anything that is college or university level education, or any education or training that is targeted to adults. LAAP will not generally fund elementary and secondary education aimed at K-12 students, but adult GED programs or the delivery of community college courses for college credit to high school students, for example, would be eligible, as would teacher training and school-college partnerships. Postsecondary providers may include museums, public libraries, adult literacy programs, workforce-related programs and many other types of organizations in addition to institutions of higher education, and all are welcome to apply as part of partnerships.
2) May LAAP funds be used to purchase computers or to develop networking infrastructure?
No, LAAP expects that applicants will handle computing expenses on their own; however, investments of this type can in some cases be included in the cost share.
Generally, LAAP funds are expected to be used as seed money for the development of new projects and for initial implementation and evaluation, but not for ongoing operations.
3) Do we have to submit a preliminary proposal?
Yes, all applicants must submit a preliminary proposal in order to be eligible for funding. If you do not submit a preliminary proposal, you may not submit a final proposal.
4) The application guidelines say that the lead applicant and fiscal agent must be a non-profit organization. May a college or university be the lead applicant?
Yes, we expect most of the proposals will be submitted by colleges or universities (as long as they are not proprietary institutions) serving as the lead applicant and fiscal agent for a partnership. However, other types of non-profits may also be the lead applicant and fiscal agent; and businesses, proprietary institutions, and other profit-making organizations can be participating partners even though they may not be the lead applicant and fiscal agent.
5) Is the preliminary proposal more or less the same as a "concept paper" intended to present our idea to you?
No, the preliminary proposal does more than simply communicate your project idea. It should also include an argument demonstrating why your project idea is innovative and nationally significant, an overview of your implementation plan, and even some basic information about your project evaluation. In other words, it should be as complete as possible. Obviously, you will have to make some choices about how best to use the allotted seven pages to make sure reviewers will get the information they need. The reviewers, of course, will understand that it is not possible to communicate all details in only seven pages, but they will be looking for evidence of solid planning and commitment.
6) Do we need to include detailed budget information in the preliminary proposal?
In the preliminary proposal, you do not need to include itemized budget breakdowns to accompany your budget request. You should, however, organize your budget according to the categories on our budget forms and to include on the lead partner and additional partner forms the cost sharing that each partner will contribute to the project. You will have to include itemized breakdowns of each of these budgets in the final proposal if you are invited to submit one.
7) Can our final proposal change compared to our preliminary?
Yes, the final proposal may in some cases change substantially. If you are invited to submit a final proposal, you will receive feedback from a FIPSE program officer who will discuss with you the reviewers' comments and make suggestions about how you can improve your project, including ways of revising your project budget. In the time between your preliminary and final submissions, you may have done some additional planning as well.
8) Do you require 50% cost sharing every year of a grant?
The LAAP program requires that grant funds equal no more than 50% of the total project costs, but it does not require that government funds total no more than 50% of the funds in any given year. The cost share may be bigger in some years than in others, as long as the total cost share equals or exceeds the federal funds requested. However, reviewers will be careful in analyzing budgets to make sure that financial commitments are solid and reasonably distributed. Remember, you may not use grant funds to support fund raising efforts.
Also, it is not required that all partners contribute equally to the partnership's cost share, but reviewers will be looking for evidence that all partners are committed to implementation and sustainability of the project.
9) What indirect cost rate do you recommend?
FIPSE recommends that LAAP applicants use the U.S. Department of Education's training rate of 8% of total direct costs. It is permissible to identify the difference between 8% and the lead applicant's negotiated rate as a cost share.
10) What advice do you have for putting together partnerships?
To be eligible, there must be a minimum of two partners, but this is merely an eligibility requirement. The number of partners may in some cases be considerably larger. The important thing to remember is that your project should be national or regional in scope, and that it will be judged on the basis of its potential for innovation and wide-ranging influence.
Certain types of partnerships are relatively commonplace in postsecondary education. Unless you can make a compelling argument for your project idea, it may not be competitive for LAAP funds. When making your argument, it will help if you demonstrate how your project would fit into the national context of postsecondary education. What is the state of current practice, and what are other reformers doing already? What have you learned from them? In what way are you making a new contribution?
11) May businesses or other profit-making organizations participate in partnerships and receive grant funds?
Businesses or other profit-making organization are encouraged to participate in LAAP partnerships, as are community organizations, museums, libraries, and many other types of organizations. But businesses and other profit-making organizations may not be the lead applicant and fiscal agent; the lead applicant and fiscal agent must be a non-profit. However, a business or profit-making organization may be a partner in the grant and receive funds via subcontracts and other means. As partners, they are also expected to make substantial monetary or in kind commitments of resources as part of the overall cost share.
12) Can an organization participate in more than one partnership and apply more than once?
Yes, there is no limit to the number of applications that can be submitted from any one organization or institution.
13) What kind of project evaluation is expected? Where can we find an educational evaluator to help us with the project?
You should find an educational evaluator with social science research skills to work with you for the length of the project. The evaluator should not have any other role on the project and should be free from any potential biases. This evaluator should help you to develop a comprehensive evaluation plan that will help provide you feedback during the course of the project and measure its success by the end. The evaluation should principally focus on student learning outcomes, but other programmatic objectives should be looked at as well. There should be clearly defined project objectives and a good mix of evaluation strategies. not just subjective participant surveys, but a full range of quantitative measures as well. You should be sure to include enough funds in your budget request to make sure that the evaluator can be compensated; a rough guide is that evaluation may cost about 10% of your FIPSE request.
We suggest in looking for an evaluator that you go to a nearby university or inquire with a reputable consulting firm and ask to find someone with past experience in educational evaluation and good social science research skills. Sometimes it may be tempting to hire someone with distance education expertise but no particular training in evaluation methodology. This is not what you should be looking for. Often campuses have centers for instructional research or teaching effectiveness that provide evaluation services on a contractual basis. Such a service at your own institution may be appropriate, as long as the personnel have no direct or indirect stake in the success of your project.
14) Do you have a limit for fees for consultants?
Generally, we recommend a rate of $600 per day. If more is necessary, we may require a justification before approval.
15) What happens to income generated by grant funded activity? Would we have rights to copyright, license, publish and/or sell products or services developed under a grant?
The grantee (in this case, the legal applicant and fiscal agent) will have the right to license, copyright, and sell materials produced under the grant. However, there are some restrictions on Program Income generated during the actual grant period. generally, if the income is generated during the grant, it must be reinvested into the project or in some cases turned back to the federal government. However, after the grant period, there are few restrictions. You may wish to consult with your lawyers; regulations covering program income can be found in the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) 34 CFR Parts 74 and 80.
Other partners are advised to work out in advance their respective arrangements with the lead applicant/fiscal agent over any materials that will be produced under the grant!
16) Can a federal government agency or international organization be a partner in LAAP?
LAAP is intended to boost distance learning in U.S. postsecondary institutions. Federal agencies and organizations in other countries can participate as unofficial partners and contribute ideas, labor, facilities, and even funds, but their contributions do not count towards cost sharing and their partnership is not recognized as official, i.e., it does not count towards fulfilling the requirement for at least 2 partners.