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Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program

Grants to USA IHEs to Enhance Education Related to Food,
Agricultural, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Deadline Date:

04/02/20 5:00 PM ET Receipt


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Grants to USA and Territories colleges and universities to offer quality undergraduate and graduate degree tracks that will strengthen the country's agricultural and food-related professional and scientific workforce. Applicants should contact program staff and register with the grant portal prior to applying. Funding is intended for projects that will help faculty at IHEs inspire their students and take learning to a new level. Funding is available for Planning and Standard Grants, and for Collaborative Grants, Type 1 and 2.

Projects supported by the Higher Education Challenge Grants Program will: (1) address a state, regional, national, or international educational need; (2) involve a creative or non-traditional approach toward addressing that need that can serve as a model to others; (3) 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 (4) result in benefits that will likely transcend the project duration and USDA support.

Applications submitted to this grants program must state how the funded project will address the HEC Program Goals:

  1. To enhance the quality of instruction for baccalaureate degrees, master’s degrees, and first professional degrees in veterinary sciences, in order to help meet current and future workforce needs in the food, agricultural, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences.
  2. To increase the number and diversity of students who will pursue and complete a post-secondary degree in the FANH sciences. 

Projects must primarily focus on baccalaureate, masters, or DVM level education. However, a project may also include an ancillary, target impact on either secondary, or two-year post-secondary students.

For additional information about project and grant types, see:

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 181100

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

2 total grants for Planning Activity, Standard, and Collaborative; 1 Collaborative 2 grant; and 1 other HEC grant type.

Estimated Size of Grant:

- Planning Activity grants are up to $30,000.
- Standard grants are up to $150,000.
- Collaborative 1 grants are up to $300,000.
- Collaborative 2 grants are up to $750,000.

Term of Contract:

- Planning Activity grants are up to 24 months in duration.
- Standard grants are 24 to 36 months in duration.
- Collaborative 1 grants are 24 to 36 months in duration.
- Collaborative 2 grants are 36 months in duration.

There are no limits on the total grant program funds that may be awarded to any one institution/organization in successive years of this competition. Successful award recipients may apply for additional awards in subsequent years either as a lead applicant or collaborator.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible: 1862 Land-Grant Institutions, 1890 Land-Grant Institutions, 1994 Land-Grant Institutions, For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Other or Additional Information (see below), State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed.

In addition applications may be submitted by: a) U.S. public or private, nonprofit colleges/universities offering baccalaureate or 1st professional degree in at least one discipline/area of food & agricultural sciences; b) land-grant colleges/universities (including those in Insular Areas); c) colleges/universities having significant minority enrollments and demonstrable capacity to teach food and agricultural sciences; and d) other colleges and universities having demonstrable capacity to teach food and agricultural sciences.

United States citizenship is not required of faculty that wish to serve as a PD, co-PD, or key personnel on a HEC grant. Any individual (eligible participant) receiving Federal funds above must be a citizen or national of the United States, as defined in the RFA. Failure to meet an eligibility criterion by the time of application deadline may result in the application being excluded from consideration or, even though an application may be reviewed, will preclude NIFA from making an award.

The following applies to CG1 and CG2 applicants only: The applicant institution must meet the definition of “eligible institution” as specified in §3405.2(i); the other institutions participating in a CG1 and CG2 project proposals 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).

Award recipients may subcontract to organizations not eligible to apply provided such organizations are necessary for the conduct of the project.

Pre-Application Information:

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on April 2, 2020.

The deadline for FY2021 is March 24, 2021.

Applicants must apply through New users to must register early prior to submitting an application.

Applicants should contact an Authorized Representative (AR) prior to starting an application to assess the organization’s readiness to submit an electronic application.

There is no limit on the number of applications that may be submitted by an applicant institution. However, a successful applicant institution/organization will only be awarded a maximum of two (2) grants per year under this program. No more than one (1) CG2 grant will be awarded to an institution/organization in any one, annual HEC grants program competition, and generally, an individual academic (or other) unit (a college, school of agriculture, etc.) within the institution/organization may only have one (1) active, CG2 grant in effect at any time.

Additional information:

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For a list of application documents, see the Package tab (press Preview) on the page above.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Siva Sureshwaran
Phone: (202) 445-5570
Mobile: (202) 445-5570
Fax: (202) 720-9366

Contact for Electronic Access Problems: online support:
Telephone support: 800-518-4726
Toll-Free or 606-545-5035
Email support:

National Institute of Food and Agriculture
6501 Beacon Drive
Kansas City, MO 64133

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

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