NAICU Washington Update

Dollar Levels Hold Steady for ACG and SMART Grants

May 09, 2007

Award amounts for two key federal grant programs, Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART), will hold at current levels in the coming year, the Department of Education has announced. The academic majors approved for SMART grants, listed in an attachment posted with the awards letter, also remain the same as 2006-07.

The rulings, posted in the April 27 letter from the Department, establish award amounts as follows:

  • Year 1, ACG: $750
  • Year 2, ACG: $1,300
  • Year 3, SMART: $4,000
  • Year 4, SMART: $4,000

ACG and SMART grants are aimed at encouraging academic rigor and study in science, mathematics, and critical foreign languages. The programs have proved difficult to administer since their start in 2006, despite Department efforts to improve them. The programs were included in negotiated rulemaking ("neg-reg") this spring in hopes of improving the current regulations, but consensus was not achieved. A coalition of institutional and student representatives and others protested that the Department had not gone far enough in easing the burden of administering the programs.

Negotiators did reach tentative agreement on aspects of the program's management, and some of that language could be included when the Department issues draft regulations, expected in June, and in its final regulations, expected in the fall. In addition, the higher education associations have sent Congress recommendations for improvements to the law on which the regulations are based.

Of the two other neg-reg panels considering student financial aid regulations, only the highly technical "general provisions" panel has reached consensus on its package of draft regulations. The loan panel could not reach agreement on a number of items, most notably provisions regulating institution and lender relations, and provisions weakening the Perkins Loan Program. Draft and final regulations for these two panels are expected to be published on the same schedule as the ACG and SMART Grant regulations.

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