Guide to Higher Education Grant Funding 

Guide to Higher Education Grant Funding 

Guide to Higher Education Grant Funding 

Grants are an essential aspect of higher education, helping fund college and university operations and improvements. However, these institutions face unique challenges related to funding and grant management. 

Why Are Grants Important in Higher Education? 

Grants can support higher education institutions in many ways, making them essential sources of income that schools can use to finance various initiatives. When facing the unique challenges of managing grants, keeping the benefits and purposes of grants in mind can highlight their importance for schools. Some key functions of grants for higher education institutions include: 

  • Supporting faculty and student endeavors: Student and faculty research is a crucial aspect of campus life. Professors often have responsibilities that include conducting and publishing research, which grants can help fund. Students can use undergraduate and graduate research grants to explore their fields and deepen their understanding. 
  • Expanding campus facilities: Institutions can use grant funds in many ways. When institutions want to grow their campus, funds from grants can allow campuses to build dorms and more academic buildings. These initiatives can support expanding student populations with more available classrooms and living spaces, further enhancing student life. 
  • Improving student services: The administration also needs support to help meet student needs. Grants can enable schools to upgrade equipment and technology for more efficient and helpful administrative services, from academic advising to class registration to campus security. 

Grant funding ensures campuses and administrative teams have the financial resources they need to complete essential functions and support their students and faculty. As educational centers, research and academic needs are a priority that grant funding can enhance. 

What Is Grant Management? 

Grant management is the process of tracking and organizing resources, actions and budgets throughout the entire grant lifecycle. In general, grant management has three distinct phases

  1. Pre-award management: Grant management starts with finding the right grant for your institution and writing a proposal with all essential information to secure the funds. You must determine what your school needs and the resources your determined project will require. Understanding your current needs are an essential aspect of pre-award grant management because it will impact the success of other stages. 
  2. Award management: In this stage of grant management, you will allocate the received funds to their determined projects and launch the various stages. Some grantors will give funds to projects in stages, requiring you to complete the early deliverables of projects before receiving other portions of the budget. This aspect of grant management will include ensuring projects stick to their budget and meet deadlines.  
  3. Post-award management: Post-award management is the review process that occurs when projects finish. Administrators can review project outcomes to see if initial goals were reached or determine progress toward completion. They will also look over budgets to ensure spending stays within limits. 

Good grant management will increase communication and visibility across the three stages, ensuring administrators and project managers know the project and grant status. 

5 Challenges to Grant Management in Higher Education 

Because campuses are busy organizations with my independent colleges and departments receiving grant funding, grant management can get complicated and come with many unique challenges. 

1. Grant Competitiveness 

When colleges and universities rely heavily on grant funding to complete projects and initiatives, competition between all schools nationwide can make it more difficult for institutions to receive the funding they need. Competitive grants are ones where grantors have not determined who will receive the funding, requiring organizations to review applications and proposals from interested institutions and choose the ones that best fit their qualifications and eligibility standards. 

Guide to Higher Education Grant Funding 

While schools can find available grants from federal and state agencies and private programs, the volume of applicants and strict eligibility standards can make it challenging to receive funding. Many grantors require comprehensive records and proposals, so schools must gather resources and data from across departments and projects to prove they need and can responsibly handle funds. They might have to show historical records that demonstrate the need for funds or past projects funded by grants. 

Within individual schools, there might be multiple departments and initiatives competing for the same funds. Universities and administrative teams must determine priorities and approve projects to decide where to allocate funds across campus. Internal competition can make grants more scarce and challenging for research teams, underfunded departments and smaller projects. 

2. Siloed Data 

Universities and colleges often struggle with managing grants and funds because grants impact several departments and cause more data siloes than other organizations have. At most academic institutions, colleges and departments are responsible for housing, managing and tracking their data in separate systems. While this can help manage access controls and data volume, it can create unique challenges when institutions need to pull from several departments to create a more comprehensive picture of campus activities. 

Data siloes can create problems for higher education institutions managing their grants. Grant management requires institutions to track fund usage and campus activity across the grant management lifecycle. When all information is separate, administrators must request data from each department and wait for their teams to compile information and send it back to the requestor. Additionally, departments can misunderstand requests and return the wrong data, causing the process to repeat. 

3. Insufficient Reporting and Tracking 

Lack of visibility and transparency slows down tracking and reporting processes for colleges and universities. When data is siloed with individual departments, administrative teams have a harder time maintaining and creating comprehensive records. Inefficient methods can make it hard to receive accurate and timely data from departments and researchers, while the volume of fund applications can cause comprehensive records that are difficult to organize and identify. 

Even when departments have access to all essential data, departments might have insufficient reporting and tracking methods. They might have several projects and initiatives within their college or department that receives funding, from individual professor research and the implementation of new technology to renovations and expansions. Information can get muddied and lost, causing problems for overall institution reporting and tracking. 

This challenge can create hardships for schools across the fund management lifecycle. Without current data on how departments are performing or using funds, it can be challenging to maintain or find funding from grantors who require transparency for compliance. After funding, schools must submit financial reports to show how they used funds and upheld their end of contracts with their grantors with completed projects or research. 

4. Poor Visibility and Understanding 

Because grant funds might apply to various higher education institution operations, departments might struggle to understand which funds are available to them for projects. Lack of clarity can come from poor communication methods at institutions or from the grantors themselves. 

On the individual level, professors and researchers might be unaware that there is funding available to them. When their operations depend on affording research teams, equipment, and supplies, research might come to a halt if teams are unaware they have a grant budget. 

Alternatively, a lack of visibility and clarity can also lead to overspending. When teams think they have more room in the budget, it can lead to more complications later. Other projects might get cut or schools might have to apply for continuation grants to meet their outcomes and deliverables. 

5. No Faculty or Staff Compensation

Nonprofits often use volunteers to help streamline operations, making it easier to budget for other necessary elements, but colleges and universities have employees and researchers who need paychecks. Grants can help covers the costs of extra labor and research compensation when starting new projects on campuses, but proposals and applications must include these factors in the budget. 

Guide to Higher Education Grant Funding 

Some types of compensation your school might encounter when working with a grant-funded project include: 

  • Professor research stipends
  • Student researchers and assistants
  • Construction workers on construction projects
  • Contractors and subcontractors

Creating a comprehensive and detailed budget in the planning and application phases can prevent your university or college from encountering unaccounted costs and going over budget. 

5 Higher Education Grant Management Best Practices 

When there are so many challenges facing colleges and universities trying to manage their grant funding, understanding what strategies your school can implement can better optimize your budget and opportunities. 

1. Prioritize Transparency and Visibility 

Many of the problems universities and colleges experience with grants come from the lack of transparency and visibility across campuses. When each department functions so independently, it can create challenges when they must collaborate on factors like budgeting and reporting for grant funding. Even in the grant application stage, university colleges and departments must work together to determine their requested budget. 

Centralized solutions that store all information in one platform can help higher education institutions organize and access data from other departments more easily for more informed decisions and proposals. Access permissions can ensure that only individuals who need to view and use data can log in to different department datasets, but centralized data streamlines communication and collaboration efforts. 

Centralized solutions can also make data more reliable, ensuring the teams preparing grant budgets have access to the most recent and accurate information. When administrators access another department’s data from a centralized platform, they know there isn’t another, more recent version of the data set. 

Access to data from other departments and colleges in your institution can also help administrators identify areas that might benefit from grant funding. For example, if grades are low in one college, institutions can allocate more funds to that college to bring more student and professor resources that can support better learning and teaching.

2. Develop Reporting Procedures 

Regardless of whether you adopt a centralized platform, your administration can also increase visibility and transparency with comprehensive reporting procedures across projects and initiatives. When you know what your researchers and colleges are spending and how they are using funding, you can better budget the remaining funds and accurately communicate with your school. 

Guide to Higher Education Grant Funding 

Whether your funding goes toward researchers or several departments, establishing reporting processes can keep all teams accountable throughout grand fund use. When teams make purchases, they can submit requests or spend reports to fund management teams. Both parties should keep records of their reports and budget spending throughout operations. 

When your school has comprehensive records and reports on fund use, you can strengthen future grant fund opportunities. You can streamline continuation grant applications with records that show what you have accomplished and where you need more funding. With reports and historical data, you can demonstrate to your grantors you upheld your contract to build more positive relationships. 

3. Set Clear Deadlines and Objectives 

Your school’s actions during the early stages of the grant management lifecycle can set your projects up for success. While grants can offer comprehensive funding, it is finite. You might have countless projects your school wants to achieve, but your budget will determine how much you can reasonably accomplish with your desired grants. 

Before applying, your administrative teams can set objectives and priorities for the various projects around campus and how long they will reasonably take. Having a comprehensive plan before receiving grants shows potential grantors that you can manage your time and funds, increasing their trust in you. 

4. Communicate Responsibilities to Faculty 

Faculty can support institution grant management, but they must know the roles they play. Even if professors aren’t conducting research or actively using grant funds, they can still contribute to grant management with their communication and collaboration efforts. 

Before starting projects, you can streamline faculty involvement by carefully outlining what they can do. For some, it might include reporting regular student and faculty performance data to help identify areas of improvement around campus. For professors who are more involved, you might include information about submitting research proposals or procedures for hiring student research assistants. 

Because they work with students and other faculty daily and often frequently use various campus services and facilities, professors can be valuable sources of insight that you can use to drive impactful changes. They can offer valuable feedback on where improvements are needed while assessing the progress of various current projects. Like other processes, having outlined instructions can optimize feedback, so administrative teams can store and use it effectively. 

5. Invest in the Right Tools and Resources

Colleges and universities need the right equipment and resources to support everyday operations. Grant management platforms can help you track essential information and compile reports for streamlined processes that optimize efficiency and compliance. 

At IGX Solutions, our IntelliGrants IGX software solution is a centralized platform designed to help organizations manage grants across the lifecycle, from research and applications through project completion and financial reporting. When applying for grants, IntelliGrants IGX allows you to view your application’s status, so you can streamline school operations while waiting for approval.

After receiving funding, IntelliGrants IGX will receive and store all your performance and spending data in one place so administrators and project managers can oversee operations and adjust plans to reflect available budgets and better meet your deadlines. When you can stay within your budget and finish projects on time, you can foster stronger relationships with your grantors. 

Guide to Higher Education Grant Funding 

Promote Improved Grant Management With IGX Solutions  

Using a higher education grant management guide can help colleges and universities identify beneficial strategies as they approach the grant application process, but you also need the right technology. Our IntelliGrants IGX software provides the technical support and transparency that universities and colleges need to effectively manage and use their grant funding to improve their campuses. 

IntelliGrants IGX has an adaptable configuration that you can change to fit your needs for easier implementation and use. This platform flexibility makes IntelliGrants IGX excellent for schools because you can use it across departments and applications to accomplish all campus goals. With its centralized platform, you can get an overview of your spending and projects, or you can easily access more specific information to assess independent performance. 

Request a demo today and discover how IntelliGrants IGX can support your funding needs.