More Outreach Needed to Increase USDA Grant Funding, Report Says

More Outreach Needed to Increase USDA Grant Funding, Report Says
By Charles Dervarics

More outreach from the U.S. Department of Agriculture could help minority-serving colleges and universities better compete for grant funding, a federal watchdog agency says.

In a new report, the U.S. General Accounting Office says minority-serving institutions (MSIs) received less than 2 percent of funding awarded by the National Research Initiative, USDA’s largest grant program. While the number of Black, Hispanic-serving and tribal colleges winning funds has increased in recent years, these institutions still report that a lack of resources “places them at a disadvantage” in the program, particularly because they often must compete with major land-grant universities.

In 2001, minority-serving colleges accounted for just 46 of the 2,579 applications under the program. Among 43 MSIs surveyed, only four believe they have the resources to compete with land-grant institutions. They also said the key to winning grants is a college’s ability to improve its research faculty, equipment and facilities.

USDA currently offers assistance through on-site reviews to help improve a university’s research capabilities. Yet GAO said more should be done. Specifically, the report recommends that the agriculture agency tailor its on-site reviews so that MSIs receive more strategies to help them become more competitive.

MSIs submitted 46 proposals to USDA in both 2000 and 2001. The agency awarded 14 grants to Black, Hispanic-serving and tribal colleges in 2001, up from only six the previous year. For more information, visit the Web site at .

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