To the Editor:
The U.S. Department of Education's Title III Strengthening Institutions program is an important source of external funding for colleges and universities around the nation. My own institution, Johnson State College, had a recent award (2005-2010) for which I served as project director. Title III funding served not only to strengthen but actually to transform the institution. It is a wonderful grant program.
On March 23 the department's request for proposals for a 2012 competition appeared in the Federal Register. Probably to reduce the competitive field in light of the small number of awards contemplated (13-14), the department announced an April 23 deadline for submissions. This is a very short window for a complex application that is accompanied—for instance—by no fewer than 94 pages of instructions. Further, as the department strongly recommends submitting several days before the closing date, in light of the technical glitches anticipated if institutions submit electronically at the last minute, the application window is actually less than one month.
This compressed timetable benefits institutions that can afford to pay for the services of consultants and companies that specialize in Title III, and can spare staff members to assist applicants, or those with well-developed grant offices whose boilerplate proposals can be modified at short notice. Yet many other colleges and universities have well-developed plans that fit Title III parameters but lack the staff or fiscal resources to wrestle them into Title III shape in a single month smack in the middle of an academic semester.
It seems lamentable that a competition for scarce public funding would skew, rather than level, the competitive playing field.
Dean of Academic Affairs
Johnson State College