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Notice

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Request for Grant Proposals: Partnerships for Learning Undergraduate Studies Program

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

The Office of Academic Exchange Programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces an open competition for Partnerships for Learning Undergraduate Studies (PLUS) Program. Public and private non-profit organizations with at least four years of experience in conducting international exchange programs and meeting the provisions described in Internal Revenue Code section 26 USC 501(c)(3) may submit proposals to provide administrative and program support services for the PLUS Scholarship Program.

Program Information

Overview: Under the Partnerships for Learning Initiative, the Bureau created the Partnerships for Learning Undergraduate Studies (PLUS) Program in order to reach a broader sector of college-age youth (generally, 17-22 years of age) from diverse backgrounds and provide them with a greater understanding of U.S. institutions, society and culture. The goal of the PLUS Program is to identify and support undergraduate level study at accredited higher education institutions in the United States for a select cadre of academically talented undergraduate students from the Middle East and North Africa who exhibit leadership potential in contributing to the economic, political and social development of the region. PLUS scholarships are offered for the final two years of undergraduate level study in the social sciences and humanities, with the provision of pre-academic training to develop participant academic readiness and English-language abilities. (The pre-academic training program is detailed under a separate Request for Grant Proposals solicitation.) The program participants should be placed in clusters. In general five to ten participants may be placed in a single institution. In negotiation with the host institution, the cooperating agency needs to develop opportunities for students to receive a U.S. degree upon successful completion of the course of work and other requirements.

The Bureau's Office of Academic Exchange Programs administers the PLUS Program and is responsible for allocation of funding, policy guidance and administrative oversight. Program participants are recruited, screened and nominated by America-Mideast Educational and Training Services (Amideast) and/or Public Affairs Sections of the U.S. Embassies or Fulbright Commissions in the region. Final selection of grantees is determined by an independent review panel in Washington, DC.

The successful applicant will have responsibility for program administration, which involves performance of services in the following broad categories: Program Planning and Management; Placement; Supervision and Support Services; Special Programs Management; Fiscal Management; and Program Projection, Reporting, Alumni Follow-on and Evaluation Services.

Guidelines: Program administration activities should cover the time period January 15, 2004 through August 30, 2006. The expected grantee caseload is projected to be 75-100 principal candidates for academic years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Programs must comply with J-1 visa regulations. Please refer to Solicitation Package for further information.

Budget Guidelines

The Bureau anticipates awarding one grant in the amount up to $3,650,000 to support program and administrative costs required to implement this phase of the PLUS Program. Bureau grant guidelines require that organizations with less than four years experience in conducting international exchanges be limited to $60,000 in Bureau funding. Therefore, organizations with less than four years experience in conducting international exchanges are ineligible to apply under this competition. The Bureau encourages applicants to provide maximum levels of cost-sharing and funding in support of its programs. Start Printed Page 58740

Applicants must submit a comprehensive budget for the entire program. There must be a summary budget as well as breakdowns reflecting both administrative and program budgets. Applicants may provide separate sub-budgets for each program component, phase, location, or activity to provide clarification.

Please refer to the Solicitation Package for complete budget guidelines and formatting instructions.

Announcement Title and Number: All correspondence with the Bureau concerning this RFGP should reference the above title and number ECA/A/E/NEA-SA-04-PLUS.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

The Office of Academic Exchanges, ECA/A/E/NEA-SA, Room 212, U.S. Department of State, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20547, telephone (202) 619-6863, fax (202) 205-2466, or Internet address aarmitag@pd.state.gov to request a Solicitation Package. The Solicitation Package contains detailed award criteria, required application forms, specific budget instructions, and standard guidelines for proposal preparation. Please specify Bureau Program Officer Alice Armitage on all other inquiries and correspondence.

Please read the complete Federal Register announcement before sending inquiries or submitting proposals. Once the RFGP deadline has passed, Bureau staff may not discuss this competition with applicants until the proposal review process has been completed.

To Download a Solicitation Package Via Internet

The entire Solicitation Package may be downloaded from the Bureau's Web site at http://exchanges.state.gov/​education/​RFGPs. Please read all information before downloading.

New OMB Requirement

An OMB policy directive published in the Federal Register on Friday, June 27, 2003, requires that all organizations applying for Federal grants or cooperative agreements must provide a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for all Federal grants or cooperative agreements on or after October 1, 2003. The complete OMB policy directive can be referenced at http://www.whitehouse.gov/​omb/​fedreg/​062703_​grant_​identifier.pdf. Please also visit the ECA Web site at http://exchanges.state.gov/​education/​rfgps/​menu.htm for additional information on how to comply with this new directive.

Deadline for Proposals

All proposal copies must be received at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs by 5 p.m. Washington, DC time on Friday, November 14, 2003. Faxed documents will not be accepted at any time. Documents postmarked the due date but received on a later date will not be accepted. Each applicant must ensure that the proposals are received by the above deadline.

Applicants must follow all instructions in the Solicitation Package. The original and seven copies of the application should be sent to: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ref.: ECA/A/E/NEA-SA-04-PLUS, Program Management, ECA/EX/PM, SA-44, Room 534, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20547.

Please note that proposals must be sent by U.S. mail or other recognized national delivery services that utilize a shipping identification and tracking process and whose delivery people are identifiable by commonly recognized uniforms and delivery vehicles. If applicants wish to send staff to hand-carry proposals, they must contact the ECA program officer, Alice Armitage at 202-619-6863 to set up an appointment for delivery prior to 5 p.m. November 14.

Applicants must also submit the “Executive Summary” and “Proposal Narrative” sections of the proposal in text (.txt) format on a PC-formatted disk. The Bureau will transmit these files electronically to the Public Affairs section at the U.S. Embassy for its review, with the goal of reducing the time it takes to get embassy comments for the Bureau's grants review process.

Diversity, Freedom and Democracy Guidelines

Pursuant to the Bureau's authorizing legislation, programs must maintain a non-political character and should be balanced and representative of the diversity of American political, social, and cultural life. “Diversity” should be interpreted in the broadest sense and encompass differences including, but not limited to ethnicity, race, gender, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, and physical challenges. Applicants are strongly encouraged to adhere to the advancement of this principle both in program administration and in program content. Please refer to the review criteria under the ‘Support for Diversity' section for specific suggestions on incorporating diversity into the total proposal. Public Law 104-319 provides that “in carrying out programs of educational and cultural exchange in countries whose people do not fully enjoy freedom and democracy,” the Bureau “shall take appropriate steps to provide opportunities for participation in such programs to human rights and democracy leaders of such countries.” Public Law 106-113 requires that the governments of the countries described above do not have inappropriate influence in the selection process. Proposals should reflect advancement of these goals in their program contents, to the full extent deemed feasible.

Adherence to All Regulations Governing the J Visa

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is placing renewed emphasis on the secure and proper administration of Exchange Visitor (J visa) Programs and adherence by grantees and sponsors to all regulations governing the J visa. Therefore proposals should demonstrate the applicant's capacity to meet all requirements governing the administration of Exchange Visitor Programs as set forth in 22 CFR part 62, including the oversight of Responsible Officers and Alternate Responsible Officers, screening and Selection of program participants, provision of pre-arrival information and orientation to participants, monitoring of participants, proper maintenance and security of forms, record-keeping, reporting and other requirements. The Grantee will be responsible for issuing DS-2019 forms to participants in this program.

A copy of the complete regulations governing the administration of Exchange Visitor (J) programs is available at http://exchanges.state.gov or from: United States Department of State, Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation, ECA/EC/ECD — SA-44, Room 734, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington,DC 20547, Telephone: (202) 401-9810, FAX: (202) 401-9809.

Review Process

The Bureau will acknowledge receipt of all proposals and will review them for technical eligibility. Proposals will be deemed ineligible if they do not fully adhere to the guidelines stated herein and in the Solicitation Package. All eligible proposals will be reviewed by the program office, as well as the Public Diplomacy section overseas, where appropriate. Eligible proposals will be subject to compliance with Federal and Bureau regulations and guidelines and forwarded to Bureau grant panels for advisory review. Proposals may also be reviewed by the Office of the Legal Adviser or by other Department elements. Final funding decisions are at Start Printed Page 58741the discretion of the Department of State's Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Final technical authority for cooperative agreements resides with the Bureau's Grants Officer.

Review Criteria

Technically eligible applications will be competitively reviewed according to the criteria stated below. These criteria are not rank ordered and all carry equal weight in the proposal evaluation:

1. Program Development and Management: Proposals should exhibit originality, substance, precision, innovation, and relevance to the Bureau's mission.

2. Program planning: Detailed agenda and relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and logistical capacity. Agenda and plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above.

3. Ability to achieve program objectives: Objectives should be reasonable, feasible, and flexible. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the institution will meet the program's objectives and plan.

4. Support of Diversity: Proposals should demonstrate substantive support of the Bureau's policy on diversity. Achievable and relevant features should be cited in both program administration and program content.

5. Institutional Capacity: Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the program or project's goals.

6. Institution's Record/Ability: Proposals should demonstrate an institutional record of successful exchange programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past Bureau grants as determined by Bureau Grant Staff. The Bureau will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.

7. Project Evaluation: Proposals should include a plan to evaluate the activity's success, both as the activities unfold and at the end of the program. A draft survey questionnaire or other technique plus description of a methodology to use to link outcomes to original project objectives is recommended. Successful applicants will be expected to submit intermediate reports after each project component is concluded or quarterly, whichever is less frequent.

8. Cost-effectiveness: The overhead and administrative components of the proposal, including salaries and honoraria, should be kept as low as possible. All other items should be necessary and appropriate.

9. Cost-sharing: Proposals should maximize cost-sharing through other private sector support as well as institutional direct funding contributions.

10. Value to U.S.-Partner Country Relations: Proposed projects should receive positive assessments by the U.S. Department of State's geographic area desk and overseas officers of program need, potential impact, and significance in the partner country(ies).

Authority

Overall grant making authority for this program is contained in the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Public Law 87-256, as amended, also known as the Fulbright-Hays Act. The purpose of the Act is “to enable the Government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries * * *; to strengthen the ties which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations * * * and thus to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.” The funding authority for the program above is provided through legislation.

Notice

The terms and conditions published in this RFGP are binding and may not be modified by any Bureau representative. Explanatory information provided by the Bureau that contradicts published language will not be binding. Issuance of the RFGP does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. The Bureau reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program and the availability of funds. Awards made will be subject to periodic reporting and evaluation requirements.

Notification

Final awards cannot be made until funds have been appropriated by Congress, allocated and committed through internal Bureau procedures.

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Dated: October 6, 2003.

C. Miller Crouch,

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Department of State.

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[FR Doc. 03-25783 Filed 10-9-03; 8:45 am]

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