Request for Applications (RFA): Broader Middle East and North Africa - U.S. Community College Small Grants Initiative: 2009


Date Issued: November 2, 2009
Deadline: February 1, 2010

Higher Education for Development (HED), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Education, is issuing a request for applications for the Broader Middle East and North Africa – U.S. Community College Small Grants Initiative.

Contingent upon funding, HED anticipates making up to ten (10) awards ranging between $100,000 - $150,000 each for 18-month partnerships between U.S. community colleges and community and technical colleges in the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region focusing on one or more of the following RFA objectives:

       
  • Develop capacity-building policies and strategies that result in faculty recruitment, retention and professional development
  •    
  • Establish business and education partnerships that promote workforce development through capacity-building at the community and technical college(s)
  •    
  • Develop and implement programs of study  that provide  vocational education and technical training linked to employment
  •    
  • Strengthen institutional practices and policies that improve student transitions to, through, and from community/technical colleges
  •    
  • Develop and deploy technological innovations that improve instruction and integrate technology and classroom practice to meet the needs of the productive sectors in society
  •    
  • Design standards, procedures, and guidelines that strengthen accreditation and quality assurance practices

For clarification or questions regarding this RFA, please contact Marilyn Crane at (202) 243-7685 or mcrane@hedprogram.org.


ONLINE Information Session:HED is organizing an online information session on December 2, 2009 with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of State, and USAID in which interested applicants can submit questions concerning this RFA prior to or during this meeting. Applicants are asked to register for the online information session no later than November 30, 2009 by sending an e-mail to hcipolle@hedprogram.org.

 

Background
Context
Partnership Description  UPDATED Dec.18, 2009
Eligibility
Application Review Guidelines
Application Format, Submission, and Review
Terms of the Solicitation
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 
UPDATED Dec. 18, 2009

 

Background

Higher Education for Development (HED) mobilizes the expertise and resources of the higher education community to address global development challenges. HED manages a competitive awards process to access expertise with the higher education community in coordination with the American Council on Education (ACE), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (A.P.L.U.).

Through a Leader-with-Associates Cooperative Agreement, signed in September 2005 (AEG-A-00-05-00007-00) USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade, Office of Education (EGAT/ED) provides support to Higher Education for Development.  This partnership is funded by the U.S. State Department's Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) through the Leader Agreement and is supported by the U.S. Department of Education.

For details and information on USAID and its role in economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide over the past 40 years, please visit www.usaid.gov

Context

The quality and relevance of education for workforce development is a serious challenge throughout the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region.  Millions of young people leave school with few marketable skills.  The U.S. community college model represents one approach to facilitating the school-to-work transition.  The United States recognizes that reform must come from within the region.  In June 2009, the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and the U.S. Department of Education sponsored a two-day conference about community and technical colleges as part of their support for education and human development efforts under the BMENA Initiative. 

The symposium provided regional education leaders and officials with information about the U.S. community college and vocational education model.  Symposium participants discussed how U.S. community colleges operate in today’s changing economic climate and how to develop and administer community and technical/vocational education programs in their respective countries.  Speakers included college presidents, education specialists, and private sector representatives from both the United States and the BMENA region. 

The symposium offered government officials, academic leaders, and the private sector the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to address some of the challenges facing community and technical colleges.


Partnership Description

HED encourages applications from U.S. community colleges that propose activities to strengthen the capacities of one or more partner institutions in BMENA countries (see definition of community colleges under “Eligibility”). The purpose of these partnerships is to further the goals of the BMENA Symposium by providing small grants to fund pilot projects that promote capacity-building in education through collaboration between community colleges in the United States and technical and community colleges in the BMENA region.

A proposed partnership must be between one or more BMENA community or technical colleges and one or more U.S. community colleges.  Applications for partnerships in multiple BMENA countries are welcome. 

Applications will only be considered for any of the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, West Bank/Gaza, and Yemen.

Please note that applications for Afghanistan and Pakistan will no longer be considered under this RFA due to other funding opportunities available through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.  For further information, please send an e-mail to the appropriate contact:
For Afghanistan:  BeniniCA@state.gov
For Pakistan: ZilligenJH@state.gov

Applications must address one or more of the RFA performance objectives.  It must contain an implementation plan that can be realistically completed within 18 months and include a plan for sustaining activities beyond the funding period.

Applications also should have a monitoring and evaluation plan that includes an assessment of program impact at the conclusion of the funding period.  It is expected that the one of the first steps post-award for the implementers will be to collect baseline data. 

All applications must support of one or more of the following RFA objectives with illustrative activities:

Develop capacity-building policies and strategies that result in faculty recruitment, retention and professional development

Applications will be considered that develop policies or strategies for the recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, including from the private sector; strengthen the qualifications of community or technical college faculty and administrators; create on-going professional development programs; and develop institutional practices and incentives that support faculty adoption and development of improved instructional methodologies and resources.

Establish business and education partnerships that promote workforce development through capacity-building at the community and technical college(s)

Applications will be considered that foster business and education partnerships that develop and institutionalize increased collaboration between employers and education providers.  Such collaboration should ensure the availability of quality education and training programs that are aligned with workforce development needs and increase job placement rates.  Areas for collaboration include but are not limited to the development and implementation of policies and institutional practices that help ensure students are prepared for careers in the global economy; and the formulation and delivery of developmental education approaches, workforce training, or the delivery of pre-baccalaureate credentials. 

Develop and implement programs of study that provide vocational education and technical training linked to employment

Applications will be considered that support the integration of vocational and technical training with rigorous academic content to create pathways to further education and high-skill, high-wage occupations as well as respond to local and regional economic development needs.  

Strengthen institutional practices and policies that improve student transitions to, through, and from community/technical colleges

Applications will be considered which advance effective institutional practices and policies that meet students’ diverse learning needs and promote student retention, degree or credential completion, and successful transitions to four-year universities and careers.

Develop and deploy technological innovations that improve instruction and integrate technology and classroom practice to meet the needs of productive sectors in society

Applications will be considered that promote technological innovation, increase student access to rigorous and relevant academic instruction and technical skills training, and support the development of structural and human capital assets that contribute to the successful integration of technology and classroom practice.

Design standards, procedures, and guidelines that strengthen accreditation and quality assurance practices

Applications will be considered which support the development of standards, procedures, and guidelines that build and strengthen accreditation and quality assurance practices.


Eligibility

Applications may be submitted by regionally accredited, predominantly associate degree-granting U.S. community colleges. U.S. community colleges may apply individually or in partnership with other institutions, provided that the U.S. community college is the lead U.S. institution.

Funding will be obligated through the U.S. institution to the cooperating institutions and stakeholders in the target countries in a fair, transparent and open manner through program investments that will both develop and leverage the capacity of the local institutions to meet the human and institutional capacity needs of their country.

Applicants' budgets should demonstrate that award funds will be managed by the applicant and overseas partners that are qualified higher education institutions. HED cannot accept sealed applications. HED can only negotiate an award agreement with the lead U.S. higher education institution named in the application.


Application Review Guidelines

Peer reviewers will use the following criteria to evaluate the applications:

I. Partnership Design and Implementation Plan      (25 points)

       
  • Clearly defined, concrete performance objective(s) to be achieved with the funding.  (5 points)
  •    
  • Evidence of fit of program design and activities with the BMENA objectives outlined in the RFA. (5 points)
  •    
  • Evidence and adequacy of joint planning of proposed implementation plan and activities. (5 points)
  •    
  • Viability of the implementation plan and timetable within an 18-month period. (5 points)
  •    
  • Appropriate balance of activities at the U.S. and BMENA partner institutions. (5 points)

II. Outcomes and Results         (30 points)

       
  • Likelihood of achieving the BMENA objectives as stated in the RFA. (10 points)
  •    
  • Feasibility of the work plan to achieve outcomes as described in the application and in the RFA. (10 points)
  •    
  • Evidence of a plan for sustaining the partnership beyond the period of the award. (10 points)

III. Expertise and Collaboration        (15 points)

       
  • Strength of professional credentials and relevant expertise of the individuals responsible for managing the partnership. (5 points)
  •    
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience of U.S. community college personnel in the proposed BMENA country(ies) or in BMENA country(ies) with a similar context. (5 points)
  •    
  • Clear evidence of institutional commitment (engagement of faculty, students, and administrators) among all partners and degree of collaboration in designing and implementing activities. (5 points)

IV. Cost-Effectiveness and Cost Share of Overall Budget     (15 points)

       
  • Cost sharing (recommended at 15 percent of the award amount), including expected cash or in-kind contribution from all the partners. (5 points)
  •    
  • Demonstrated cost-effectiveness in program design. (5 points)
  •    
  • Equitable distribution of funds between U.S. and host country partners. (5 points)

V. Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation Plan      (15 points)

       
  • Evidence of valid and reliable methodology for collecting baseline data. (5 points)
  •    
  • Clear plan for monitoring partnership activities and reporting outcomes. (5 points)
  •    
  • Clearly articulated plan for an assessment of the partnership’s impact. (5 points)

Total Points: 100 points


Application Format, Submission, and Review

Application Format
How to Submit an Application
Peer Review

Application Format

Please provide the contents of the application in the following order:

1. Title Page (Please complete HED form in full and obtain signatures of authorized officials.)

2. Table of Contents

3. Abstract (not to exceed 3 typed, double-spaced pages, 12-point font, 1-inch margins). The abstract should contain a summary of the narrative, workplan and budget.

4. Narrative (not to exceed 20 typed, double-spaced pages, 12-point font, 1-inch margins). Address the criteria listed in Application Review Guidelines I-V (see above).

5. The 20-page application must describe a monitoring and reporting plan for the partnership, including an initial baseline assessment, that shows how progress and results will be communicated and reported to USAID, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Deparment of Education through HED.

6. Appendices (Attachments beyond the stated appendices will not be read nor taken into consideration):
    * 18-month workplan for the funding period (Use HED form).
    *Budget forms (Use HED form. Complete all tabs).

    * Résumés of the proposed U.S. institution director(s) and host institution personnel, not to exceed 2 one-sided pages per person.
    * Signed letters of support from the presidents, chancellors, or other chief executive officers of the cooperating institution in the United States.
    * Signed letters of support from appropriate university leaders of the partner institution as well as partnership directors. University leaders from the partner may include deans, rectors, or university presidents.
    * Signed letters of support from key collaborating partners. This may include NGOs and private sector partners.
    * Signed letter from appropriate official at applicant institution verifying that all costs cited conform to established institutional policies and practices.

    * Include a copy of the U.S. institution's Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate (NICRA).

How to Submit an Application

Applications must be received at HED by 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time (ET), February 1, 2009. Faxed or electronically transmitted applications will not be accepted. All elements of the application must be received by the deadline. HED recognizes that original, signed cover letters and letters of support from overseas partners may be subject to delays due to factors beyond the applicant’s control. Only in these exceptional cases, faxed or scanned copies of the application title page and letters that include all necessary signatures may be submitted in the application, provided signed originals are received at HED within seven (7) calendar days of the deadline. All other application materials will be due as described above.

Applicants should submit the original application plus seven (7) hard copies of the complete application package containing title page, table of contents, abstract, narrative, and appendices (all on loose-leaf paper, clipped together — no three-ring binders, staples, or plastic bindings), and a flash drive/thumb drive or CD (with files saved as Microsoft Word/Excel for PC) containing the entire application, including all budget forms, budget narrative, and other appendices. Budgets must be received in Excel using the HED provided template and showing all formulas for verifying calculations.

Applications should be sent to: (*NOTE: This is a NEW address)

BMENA- U.S. Community College Small Grants Initiative: 2009
Higher Education for Development
1 Dupont Circle NW, Suite 420
Washington, DC 20036-1110

Once an application has been received, there is to be no contact with the HED program office until the completion of the peer review process in order to ensure fairness to all parties concerned.

Peer Review

Applications will be reviewed by expert panelists, which include representatives from higher education, international development, and at least one representative from USAID, the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Department of Education. Awards will be made on the basis of reviewers’ recommendations of merit, and on USAID and U.S. Department of State concurence. Peer review of applications is slated for late February.

Letters of communication from members of the U.S. Congress in support of an application are discouraged as these may be thought to prejudice the peer-review process. Such letters will not be forwarded to peer reviewers. Notification about awards is expected following the completion of peer review. Upon final announcement of awards, the person named in the application as partnership director may submit a written request for copies of the peer reviewers’ scores for the application. No personal reviews will be granted, and no comparative score tabulations will be shared.

 

Terms of the Solicitation

Cost Share
Execution of Awards
Post Award Briefings
TraiNet Requirements
Health and Accident Insurance
Reporting

Cost Share

The minimum suggested total cost share from all U.S. partners is 15 percent of the award amount. Reported cost share must be auditable. Non-auditable contributions may not be used to meet the minimum, but can be indicated separately and attached to the budget detail form. Applicants should itemize all cost sharing and in-kind contributions. Read more on cost-share guidelines.

Cash and in-kind contributions will be accepted as part of the applicant’s cost sharing when such contributions are: (a) verifiable from the applicant’s records; (b) not included as contributions for any other federally-assisted program; (c) reasonable for the accomplishment of partnership objectives; and (d) not paid by the federal government under another grant.

In-kind contributions may include, but are not limited to: waivers of tuition and fees for students participating in academic exchanges; donation of library and classroom materials to the partner; ICT infrastructure and Internet Service Provider subscription subsidy for the partner and exchange students; faculty salaries; travel and/or per diem for faculty and administrators to participate in professional exchange and development programs; and indirect costs.

Execution of Awards

Awards will be executed as sub-agreements between the designated U.S. community college or consortium and the American Council on Education (ACE), through the Higher Education for Development (HED) office, under USAID Cooperative Agreement AEG-A-00-05-00007-00. The institution recommended for award will receive a draft version of the sub-agreements to review. The award recipient will be expected to submit a marking plan related to USAID branding as part of the sub-agreement that clearly indicates the support provided by USAID for activities conducted under the award. For details on branding and marking, go to www.usaid.gov/branding.

Please note that no award nor cost share funds may be expended prior to a fully executed (i.e., signed by both parties) sub-agreement between ACE and the designated U.S. institution unless pre-award expenses have been approved as a part of the negotiation of the sub-award. Activities are expected to commence immediately after the sub-agreement is executed.

Award funds will be disbursed to the designated U.S. community college or consortium, based on the applicant’s implementation of the work plan, stated budget, and submission to HED of financial, tax, and narrative progress reports. It is the designated U.S. institution’s responsibility to provide disbursements (reimbursements) for its collaborating partner(s) in accordance with the agreed-upon activity schedule and budget.

Post Award Briefings

Partnership directors, and/or their designees, are required to participate in two post-award briefings. The first briefing will review reporting, monitoring and evaluation requirements. The second briefing will address general requirements of the award.

TraiNet Requirements

To comply with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of State, and USAID regulations regarding tracking and monitoring of Exchange Visitors, foreign nationals whose costs are paid, fully or partially, directly or indirectly using USAID program funds for training, non-training, and invitational travel, must enter the U.S. on a J-1 visa (non-immigrant Exchange Visitor visa) processed under one of USAID’s two program numbers, unless otherwise waived according to the procedure in ADS 252.3. J-2 visa applications for family members are not supported per USAID policy.

USAID expects that all DS-2019 documents (paperwork needed for J visas) and in-country or third country training be processed through the USAID Training, Results and Information Network (TraiNet) system. For more information about TraiNet, go to www.trainethelp.usaid.gov.

Institutions may not directly access the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to issue DS-2019 documents internally. Information regarding USAID’s J-1 visa requirements may be found online at the Participant Training website. Administrators must adhere to the regulations detailed under TraiNet, Visa Compliance System (VCS), the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and USAID’s Automated Directives System (ADS) 252-Visa Compliance for Exchange Visitors, and 253-Training for Development. U.S. institutions should allow a minimum of four months for the processing of visas when planning activities in the United States.

TraiNet management requires a significant commitment of staff time and applicants are encouraged to consider this when developing the program budget. 

USAID Health and Accident Coverage (HAC) Insurance Program

The U.S. institution is responsible for enrolling each participant traveling to the United States or a third country in the official USAID Health and Accident Coverage (HAC) insurance program. Participants entering the United States on J-1 visas are required to obtain HAC from the official USAID vendor. Institutions may not use award funds to cover their own institutional HAC insurance. More information on the USAID HAC program is available online. The cost of HAC for participants must be included in the budget.

Reporting

Awardees will be required to submit to HED:

       
  • Financial reports are due at least quarterly with recorded expenditures for the following periods: Jan. 1-March 31, April 1-June 30, July 1-Sept. 30, and Oct. 1-Dec. 31.
       
  •    
  • Semi-annual narrative progress reports for the following reporting periods may be sent via e-mail: April 1-September 30 and Oct. 1-March 31. Both financial reports and semi-annual progress reports are due within one-month after the corresponding reporting period closes: Jan. 31, April 30, July 31, and Oct. 31.
       
  •    
  • A final narrative report, which includes an assessement of program impact is due 30 days after the conclusion of program activities.
       
  •    
  • Final financial reports are due no later than 90 days after the sub-agreement closing date.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Please note that HED is the only official source of information about this RFA.
For clarification or questions regarding this RFA,
please contact Marilyn Crane at (202) 243-7685 or
mcrane@hedprogram.org.

Read additional general information provided during the Dec. 2, 2009 information session concerning this RFA.

RFA Specifics

Question: Are you including Liberia in North Africa or just the Maghreb countries? Anything for southern African countries such as Malawi?

Answer: A proposed partnership must be between one or more community, vocational or technical colleges in the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region and one or more U.S. community colleges.

Applications for a partnership with Liberia or with institutions from countries outside the BMENA region, such as Malawi, are not eligible under this Request for Applications (RFA). 

Applications will only be considered for any of the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, West Bank/Gaza, and Yemen.
Please note that applications for Afghanistan and Pakistan will no longer be considered under this RFA due to other funding opportunities available through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.  For further information, please contact:
For Afghanistan:  BeniniCA@state.gov
For Pakistan: ZilligenJH@state.gov

Q: Which area/country in Middle East has higher priority?

A: Eligible countries for this initiative include: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, West Bank/Gaza, and Yemen.

Please note that applications for Afghanistan and Pakistan will no longer be considered under this RFA due to other funding opportunities available through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.  For further information, please contact:
For Afghanistan:  BeniniCA@state.gov
For Pakistan: ZilligenJH@state.gov

Q: Is there a limit on how many countries can we include in each proposal? OR, if we have to write a separate proposal for each country, how many proposals can each U.S. institution submit?

A: There is neither a limit on the number of countries that can be included in each application, nor a limit on the number of applications that can be submitted. A proposed partnership must be between one or more BMENA community or technical colleges and one or more U.S. community colleges. 

Q: We have contacts in regionally dispersed countries; would it strengthen our proposal to have a North African hub or a Middle Eastern hub as axis around which to build regional clusters?

A: In the interest of fairness to all potential applicants, we cannot comment on the content or substance of a proposed application.

In developing your application, however, you will want to carefully consider the RFA objective(s) that your application will address and refer to the Application Review Guidelines.  Peer reviewers use the criteria outlined under the Application Review Guidelines to evaluate each application.

Q: Will the BMENA vocational and technical colleges be able to operate with autonomy, or will there be close government (e.g., Education Ministries) oversight and control?

A: This is a joint U.S. State Department, USAID, and Department of Education initiative through HED.  Winning applicants will be responsible for reporting to U.S. government agencies through HED.

As part of the application process, however, applicant U.S. community colleges should consult heavily with their proposed partner BMENA institutions on the nature of the educational system in which the BMENA partner institution operates and take the country’s level of government oversight into consideration in order to propose a feasible implementation plan.

Q: Does HED have a realistic assessment of the BMENA higher education systems (country-by-country assessment) or should we go by the latest Human Development report for the region?

A: The latest UNDP Human Development Report is a useful resource. Potential applicants may also wish to review information available through UNESCO, OECD and the World Bank regarding the current state of technical education and workforce development in any given country or the region.

Additionally, EducationUSA (www.EducationUSA.state.gov) and EducationUSA-MENA (www.EducationUSA-mena.org) have resources for U.S. universities on their websites, including contact information and office hours for Advising Centers for many of the eligible BMENA countries. These advising centers have information on the country’s educational system and higher education institutions.

Q: Reviewing the RFA, the question arises regarding assessing the current state of technical education opportunities, if any, for a given country or region.

A: Carrying out an assessment of the state of the technical education opportunities in a particular country is an essential part of designing a good program that responds to unmet needs.  This kind of research ensures that the proposed areas of activities are indeed linked to and responsive to real demands. 

Though this is excellent practice, the purpose of the Small Grants Initiative is to develop higher education partnerships in the BMENA region that have specific goals other than an “assessment.”  

It is the hope of the U.S. government that preliminary assessments of the state of the technical education systems are done prior to proposed activities so that the grants can be used more for designing partnerships that meet identified needs in the areas of building institutional capacity, such as:

• better linking technical education to employment opportunities and workforce development demands,
• improving the quality of technical and community college education, and
• building systems that support students school to work transitions. 

Proposals will be scored based on meeting the criteria in the RFA in the Application Review Guidelines section.  
 
Potential applicants may wish to review information available through UNESCO, OECD and the World Bank regarding the current state of technical education and workforce development in a given country or the region. Additionally, EducationUSA (www.EducationUSA.state.gov) and EducationUSA-MENA (www.EducationUSA-mena.org) have resources for U.S. universities on their websites, including contact information and office hours for Advising Centers for many of the eligible BMENA countries. These advising centers have information on the country’s educational system and higher education institutions.

Q: Does the $150,000 include participant costs? Will the grant permit a needs assessment trip to BMENA countries for 2 resource persons? Who will select the participants and how many?

A: As part of the application process, the applicant U.S. community college is expected to propose a budget (on HED budget forms) that is cost-effective and in line with the implementation plan. The proposed budget should reflect all programmatic costs to be covered by the award or by cost-share, including participant costs.

Applicant U.S. community colleges are responsible for proposing an implementation plan that addresses at least one of the RFA objectives and that must be able to be realistically completed within 18 months. 

While there is not a prohibition against including assessment trips in the implementation plan, the purpose of this Small Grants Initiative is to develop higher education partnerships in the BMENA region that have specific goals other than an “assessment.”  Proposals will be scored based on meeting the criteria in the RFA in the Application Review Guidelines section.  

U.S. and BMENA partner institutions are responsible for establishing a process for identifying participants and determining the appropriate number.

Q: Is the $150,000 to be split 50/50 between U.S. and BMENA colleges?

A: There is no requirement for a specific amount of funding to go to the overseas institution; however the peer review panel will evaluate the budget proposal to ensure that it is feasible, efficient, and shows an equitable distribution of funds between U.S. and host country partners. Please refer to the “Cost-Effectiveness and Cost Share of Overall Budget” section of the Request for Applications.

Q: Are conferences, seminars, and workshops permitted?

 A: Yes, proposed activities can include conferences, seminars, and workshops. The proposed activities, however, must be in support of one or more of the RFA objectives with illustrative activities.

Q: Are we dealing with educational administrators or faculty or both at the BMENA partner institution?

A: As part of the application process, the applicant U.S. community college is expected to consult with the partner BMENA institutions to identify appropriate key personnel.  Key personnel can include educational administrators and/or faculty.  

Q: What kind of programs do community colleges in the United States offer?

A: The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) offers an excellent overview of U.S. community colleges on their website. Two tools that may be of particular value to you: the introductory PowerPoint and the interactive community college finder. Both are available at http://www.aacc.nche.edu/AboutCC/Pages/default.aspx.

Q: A partnership for 18 months?  Does this mean experts from the United States can visit the BMENA host country during this period and provide support to colleges, give advice for developing programs, and conduct workshops, seminars for students as part of their study?
 
A: Yes, U.S. experts may travel to the partner country.

The purpose of these partnerships is to further the goals of the BMENA Symposium by providing small grants to fund pilot projects that promote capacity-building in education through collaboration between community colleges in the United States and vocational institutions and technical and community colleges in the BMENA region.

As part of the application process, the applicant U.S. community college should consult with the partner BMENA institution and demonstrate a high degree of collaboration in designing the implementation plan.

Based on the collaboration, proposed activities can include faculty visits to the BMENA host country to provide technical assistance, conduct workshops, etc. The proposed activities, however, must be in support of one or more of the RFA objectives with illustrative activities.  Activities and costs must be addressed in the proposal.

Q: Does this grant cover travel expenses for BMENA faculty?

A: Travel expenses can be covered by the grant, but applicants must clearly outline activities, like travel, in the budget proposal.  Applicants also should keep in mind the short (18 month) timeframe of the grant, the cost-effectiveness of the proposed activities, and the length of time required to process USAID J-1 visas for BMENA participants.

Q: Are students/faculty/staff from BMENA schools sent to the United States to observe/study the U.S. community college model?

A: International exchanges of BMENA students/faculty/staff are acceptable, but not required.   Applicants should remember that the implementation plan must address objectives from the RFA.  If exchanges are a realistic way to address the objectives at hand, in light of the 18 month time frame of the grant, then be sure to include these activities in the application.  Applicants should also take into account the cost-effectiveness of the proposed activities and the length of time required to process USAID J-1 visas for BMENA participants.

Q: Are the J-1 visas for BMENA staff/faculty to travel back and forth to observe/train at the U.S. colleges?

A: It will be necessary for the U.S. institution to apply for a J-1 visa through the TraiNet system for BMENA faculty who will be traveling to the United States.  While developing the implementation plan, applicants may want to consider third country training as an option.

Q: What about language barriers? Should that be addressed in the cost /estimate?

A: Language barriers should be considered when developing the implementation plan, as well as activities and the budget.

Q: If we bring students to be trained in our colleges, do they have to have a minimum TOEFL score?

A: If you were to bring a student to the United States, they would be required to enter on a J-1 visa issued through TraiNet, and there are English proficiency requirements and minimum English language exam scores required for a J-1 visa.  All of this information is readily available on the TraiNet website at http://trainethelp.usaid.gov and http://trainethelp.usaid.gov/Documents/index.htm

Remember, there is an 18-month timeframe, and the purpose of this initiative is to build institutional and human capacity at the BMENA technical and/or vocational colleges, so be sure to carefully review the RFA objectives when evaluating whether bringing students to the United State would be feasible and appropriate.

Q: Can all of the funding be used to build capacity in the target country without bringing people from the target country to the United States?

A: Yes, all of the funding can be used to build capacity in the target country without bringing individuals to the United States. In certain countries, obtaining visas can be a very difficult and time-consuming process and can limit the ability of the partnership to realistically complete its activities within the 18-month timeframe.  Travel consideration should be analyzed on a case by case and country by country basis, and in light of cost-effectiveness.  Applicants may find that it is more cost effective to focus activities inside the host country or in a third country instead of bringing people to the United States.

Q: Will the award cover all costs? If not, what is the role of the host country institution in funding?

A: We encourage cost sharing among all partners where there is the opportunity (a minimum suggested cost share from the U.S. community college is 15 percent of the award amount).

While the Request for Applications (RFA) does not require funding from the BMENA partner institutions, it is encouraged and can be viewed as an indication of the BMENA partner institution’s support of the proposed partnership.

Q: It seems as though the U.S. community college will serve in a consultant role. Correct?

A: While there may be advisory assistance included in activities, superior applications include substantial input from the BMENA institution. Criteria for the review of applications will include the presence of the voice of the overseas partner.  Even though the U.S. lead community college will serve as the lead recipient of the award, the partnership should be an equal and collaborative one.

Q: Can the partner colleges propose to work on the development of two programs? For example, automotive technology and mechatronics, or are we limited to working on only one program?

A: There is not a limit to the number of programs that can be targeted in an application. Applicants should review the RFA objectives and illustrative activities carefully to ensure that the application is responsive to at least one of the RFA objectives. The budget also must be realistic in proportion to proposed activities. The Application Review Guidelines section of the RFA outlines the criteria the peer review panel will use to evaluate applications.

Q: Could you please comment on expectations for sustainability after the funding cycle ends?

A: The intention of this Initiative is to provide seed funding; applications must include a plan for sustaining activities beyond the grant period.

Q: Is this a one-time funding opportunity, or do you anticipate that there might be future RFAs related to the BMENA-US Community College Small Grants Initiative?

A: At this time, this is the only planned Request for Applications for this Initiative.  Interested individuals are encouraged to watch the HED website for future funding opportunities. Working with technical/vocational schools around the world is of high interest to USAID and the U.S. State Department.  We would also advise you to watch their websites for future opportunities.

Q: Do you anticipate a second RFA after the 18 months expires, so that a stronger relationship can be built with in-country partner?

A: We do not currently anticipate a second RFA.

Q: Is it better to cover ALL objectives in the RFA for a broader connection for workforce development and faculty, or concentrate on one or two criteria?

A: Whatever is proposed should be feasible and implementable using the timeframe and budget at hand.  The peer review panel will be looking for something implementable based on the criteria outlined under the Application Review Guidelines section of the RFA, There is no “extra credit” for addressing more than one of the RFA objectives. It may be a good idea to take a look at other private sector partners, as partnerships can amplify their activities and outcomes by having more secondary partners.

Q: In the areas of training can non-credit offerings qualify or does it have to be college credit?

A: HED has had a number of successful programs which have created non-degree programs that offer certificates and other kinds of non-degree training. That kind of creativity is not out of bounds for this Initiative. 

Q: Are there any examples of past projects under this program?

A: This is a new, unique initiative growing out of the BMENA Community and Technical College Symposium, so there are no past examples to share. Interested applicants may want to consult the HED website under the tab labeled “Where we work” and search by country or regionally for other examples of past and ongoing partnerships in the BMENA region.

Q: Does the website have the info on the BMENA symposium?

A: Not currently, but we will post general information up on the website. Click here for symposium agenda.

Q: I noticed that the application has a limit of 20 pages. Is it required to be 20 pages long?  Would you like to receive it in a hard copy or electronic format?

A: While 20 pages is the maximum length of the application, a good application does not necessarily have to be that long. 

Applicants should submit the original application plus seven (7) hard copies of the complete application package containing title page, table of contents, abstract, narrative, and appendices (all on loose-leaf paper, clipped together — no three-ring binders, staples, or plastic bindings), and a USB/flash drive/thumb drive or CD (with files saved as Microsoft Word/Excel for PC) containing the entire application, including all budget forms, budget narrative, and other appendices. Budgets must be received in Excel using the HED provided template and showing all formulas for verifying calculations.

Q: Is it permissible to use these funds to support the BMENA partner institution’s pursuit of accreditation (under objective #6)?

A: You will want to carefully review your proposed activities and confirm they address at least one the RFA objectives—in this case, the development of standards, procedures, and guidelines that strengthen accreditation and quality assurance practices. You will also want to refer to the Application Review Guidelines.  Peer reviewers use the criteria outlined under the Application Review Guidelines to evaluate each application.

Q: Can you tell me what the dates for the period of performance would be for the upcoming 18 month-long BMENA grant due in Feb 2010?

A: The length of time required for selecting applications and negotiating agreements varies and may take several months. You will want to plan for a period of performance that starts around June 2010 and ends no later than December 31, 2011.

Q: Is it permissible to use these funds for travel stipends, for U.S. faculty to travel to the BMENA country institution and train their instructors in a new curriculum?

A: Yes, U.S. experts may travel to the partner country.

The purpose of these partnerships is to further the goals of the BMENA Symposium by providing small grants to fund pilot projects that promote capacity-building in education through collaboration between community colleges in the United States and vocational institutions and technical and community colleges in the BMENA region.

As part of the application process, the applicant U.S. community college should consult with the partner BMENA institution and demonstrate a high degree of collaboration in designing the implementation plan.

Based on the collaboration, proposed activities can include faculty visits to the BMENA host country to provide technical assistance, conduct workshops, etc. The proposed activities, however, must be in support of one or more of the RFA objectives with illustrative activities. 

Q: Is there any kind of cost sharing expectation for the BMENA partner?  Can USAID offer any guidance as to whether or not it would be in the spirit of this grant program for the BMENA partner to contribute to the project by providing lodging for visiting U.S. faculty and leveraging any of their available funds towards this project?

A: We encourage cost sharing among all partners where there is the opportunity (a minimum suggested cost share from the U.S. community college is 15 percent of the award amount).

While the Request for Applications does not require funding from the BMENA partner institutions, it is encouraged and can be viewed as one indication of the BMENA partner institution’s support of the proposed partnership.

Please note that HED is not an office of USAID.  We work in close partnership with USAID and nation’s six presidential higher education associations to support the involvement of higher education in development issues worldwide. Learn more about HED at www.hedprogram.org.

Q: Who would take care of all the visa logistics, etc?

A: The lead U.S. community college and BMENA partner institution(s) are responsible for all visa logistics.

Eligibility

Question: I am wondering if this program targets or focuses on senior and established faculty, or would someone who taught previously as adjunct but is still in their last stages of dissertation be considered and have a real chance?

A: This RFA is for 18-month partnerships between U.S. community colleges and community and technical colleges in the Broader Middle East and North Africa region. It is not meant to target individual faculty members.

As a result, applications may only be submitted by regionally accredited, predominantly associate degree-granting U.S. community colleges, although U.S. community colleges may apply individually or in partnership with other institutions, provided that the U.S. community college is the lead U.S. institution.

Q: While the RFA is specifically limited to Community Colleges, are U.S. 4-year universities and colleges eligible to serve as “other partners”/supplemental partners/advisors to the primary community college partner?

A: Yes.  Although, applications must be submitted by regionally accredited, predominantly associate degree-granting U.S. community colleges, U.S. community colleges may apply individually or in partnership with other institutions, including U.S. 4-year institutions, provided that the U.S. community college is the lead U.S. institution.

Q: Is it a requirement for both institutions (U.S. and BMENA) to be a two-year college/ community college? Or is it not necessarily a requirement?

A: The U.S. community college must be the lead institution in all proposals.  It is a requirement that applications must be submitted by regionally accredited, predominantly associate degree-granting U.S. community colleges.  

U.S. community colleges may apply individually or in partnership with other institutions, including U.S. 4-year institutions.  Regional partner institutions can only be technical or vocational institutions or community colleges that are accredited or certified by the relevant Ministry in the respective country.

Q: As a new start-up community college in the BMENA region, are we allowed to apply and would we be a viable option against already established community colleges in the required areas?

A: Regional partner institutions should be established technical or vocational institutions or community colleges that are accredited or certified by the relevant Ministry in the respective country.

Q: When you say the in-country partner must be "accredited" by the Ministry, do you mean that it must be SACS/COE accredited as well?

A: No, the overseas partner(s) are not required to be accredited by the U.S. system.  They are, however, required to be accredited or certified by the appropriate Ministry in their country.  The mechanism for the accreditation/certification process will vary from country to country.  The intent for this RFA is to work with recognized institutions from the BMENA countries.

Q: Is it possible under this grant to partner with a Middle East community college that is in development but that is not yet offering classes?

A: The BMENA institution must have received all appropriate accreditation and certifications from the Ministry in its country by the time of the application.

Q: We have an institution that is currently seeking accreditation. Would this institution qualify as a partner with our U.S. community college?

A: BMENA partners must have received all appropriate accreditation and/or certifications from the Ministry in its country by the time of the application.

Q: And what about Training Centers and Vocational Training Centers, are they available?

A: If an application includes a vocational or training center that serves a specific need in the region, it could be considered.  Partnerships must be between regionally accredited, predominantly associate degree-granting U.S. community colleges and regionally recognized/certified community or technical colleges in eligible BMENA countries.

Q: Can the partnership include a European institution?

A: European institutions are acceptable secondary partners, as long as a U.S. community college is the lead institution. The budget must clearly focus on the BMENA country institution. A successful application will need to demonstrate that it is focused on building the capacity of the BMENA partner and not a European institution.

Q: Do you see a role for U.S. two-year colleges that are primarily aimed at transfer programs?

A: One of the RFA objectives is to strengthen institutional practices and policies that improve student transitions to, through, and from community/technical colleges. Applications will be considered which advance effective institutional practices and policies that meet students’ diverse learning needs and promote student retention, degree or credential completion, and successful transitions to four-year universities and careers. Student ability to transfer from vocation/technical institutions varies from country to country within the BMENA region.

Q: Can a single BMENA technical/community college partner with multiple U.S. Community Colleges on separate RFAs?

A: Yes. There is no exclusivity in terms of the number of partners or the number of applications.

Q: My association is interested in partnering with a U.S. community college to collaborate with a BMENA institution in creating programs for student transition to the work force with the skills that have been referred to as soft skills. Does this seem feasible?

A: We encourage this type of partnership that includes associations and other organizations as well, but we remind you that the application must be submitted by a lead U.S. community college.

Q: Is a Community and Technical College System eligible as an applicant?  We would be the lead institution with one or more community colleges as partners.

A: Yes, a community and technical college system is eligible as an applicant and can serve as the lead institution provided that the individual community college campuses meet eligibility requirements.

TraiNet

Question: Would you provide more information on what is involved in working with the TraiNet system?

Answer: TraiNet is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s internet-based tool for gathering and reporting data on USAID exchanges, training and education, and for maintaining compliance with U.S. Government Visa requirements.

Entering information into TraiNet creates a record of USAID-sponsored exchange visitors in USAID’s database, and it is the first step in the process of requesting a DS-2019 visa request form so that exchange visitors can secure a USAID J-1 visa. TraiNet also allows users to keep information about a participant up-to-date throughout the life of his or her program.

TraiNet Web is USAID’s direct link to the Department of HomeLand Security’s SEVIS system, and a USAID J Visa DS-2019 form will be generated as a result of the data that is entered. Once the data is entered into TraiNet Web, users will not have to enter the same data a second time into SEVIS.

TraiNet Web also allows you to report in-country and third-country events.

For more information on how TraiNet works, you are welcome to contact the TraiNet Helpdesk at trainet-vcs@sraprod.com, phone: +1 703 879-8611.

You can also access more information on the TraiNet website at http://trainethelp.usaid.gov and http://trainethelp.usaid.gov/Documents/index.htm.


Identifying Partners

Question: Do we recruit/secure our own partners, or are these partners selected by the BMENA-U.S. Community Small Grants Initiative team?  If you have target institutions, will you supply point of contact information?

Answer: Applicant U.S. community colleges are responsible for identifying BMENA partner institutions with which to apply. No partners have been selected by the Initiative.

Applicant U.S. community colleges are responsible for identifying and directly contacting BMENA partner institutions with which to apply. 

Q: Do we need to have partners in these countries already?

A: An existing relationship with the BMENA partner institution(s) is not a requirement.

Q: We feel we have a great process for aligning workforce needs and training at our community college that would be of interest to Middle Eastern and/or North Africa countries.  We do not have a clue of any schools in this area that are in need of this type of service.  Is there a resource that would lead us to a partner school?

A: BMENA country embassies can be helpful resources in finding regional partner institutions. 

In addition, EducationUSA (www.EducationUSA.state.gov) and EducationUSA-MENA (www.EducationUSA-mena.org) have resources for U.S. universities on their websites, including contact information and office hours for Advising Centers for many of the eligible BMENA countries. These advising centers have information on the country’s educational system and higher education institutions.

Q: Is there a website/resource/service available that lists institutions that are looking for a partner in the BMENA region?

A: Unfortunately, we cannot point applicants in the direction of a partner; however, EducationUSA can be a valuable resource in finding information about higher education in the BMENA region. 

Q; Do you know if Morocco has a two-year college system similar to ours?

A: Morocco has a diverse educational system that includes two-year and technical colleges. Applicants should contact country embassies for more information.
From a Participant: Technical and vocational education in Morocco is provided by technical institutions that offer two years’ training after the Baccalaureate (high school diploma) leading to the Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS)

Q: Can we get a list of all participants in this session and their institution?

A: It is HED’s policy not to share participant lists for any of our information sessions.