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Academic Competitiveness Grants

Program Descriptions

Program Number



Academic Competitiveness Grants


Federal Agency




Higher Education Act of 1965, Title IV, Part A, Subpart 1, Section 401A, as amended.






To provide eligible first and second-year full-time undergraduates who have completed a rigorous course of study in high school with need-based grant assistance to help meet educational expenses.


Types of Assistance

Direct Payments for Specified Use.


Uses and Use Restrictions

The student must be a U.S. citizen who has been accepted for enrollment in, and is making satisfactory progress at an eligible institution of higher education. Eligible schools may be public or private non-profit institutions of higher education (such as colleges, universities, vocational technical schools, hospital schools of nursing), and for-profit institutions (proprietary). Eligible males who are at least 18 years or older and born after December 31, 1959, can receive aid only if they have registered with the Selective Service. Graduate students and students who have already earned a bachelor's degree are not eligible for assistance. Recipients must demonstrate need according to Part F of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, and must be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant.


Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

Undergraduate students enrolled as full-time regular students in an eligible program at an eligible institution of higher education and making satisfactory academic progress. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and have a high school diploma, a GED, or demonstrate the ability to benefit from the program of study offered.

Beneficiary Eligibility

First- and second- year undergraduate students who are U.S citizens and are eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant. Students must be full-time regular students in an eligible program at an eligible institution of higher education and making satisfactory academic progress. A first-year undergraduate must also be a first-time undergraduate, enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a 2- or 4-year degree-granting institution, and have completed, after January 1, 2006, a rigorous secondary school program. A second-year undergraduate at such an institution must have completed such a rigorous program after January 1, 2005, and have obtained a cumulative grade-point-average (GPA) of at least 3.0 in the first academic year as an undergraduate. In addition, students must sign a statement of educational purpose, not owe a refund on a Title IV grant, and not be in default on a Title IV loan. Eligible males that are at least 18 years old and born after December 31, 1950, can receive aid only if they have registered with the Selective Service.


This program is exempted from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-87.


Application and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O. 12372. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-102.

Application Procedure

Student completes a "Free Application for Federal Student Aid" and submits it to the agency specified on the form. Students may apply using a paper application, an electronic application, or via the Internet. The U. S. Department of Education calculates the student's eligibility for assistance and the agency to which the student sent the application returns a notification to the student of his or her eligibility for assistance. The student submits this notification to the institution of his or her choice in order to have his or her award calculated. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-110.

Award Procedure

Institutions act as disbursing agents for the Department of Education. The institution that the student attends calculates and disburses the Academic Competitiveness Grants, using a payment schedule developed by the Department of Education that determines the amount of the award based on the amount of available funding and the estimated number of recipients.


Contact the program office for deadlines.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Approximately 2 to 4 weeks.


An institution, on the basis of supplemental documentation, may rule that an applicant is self-supporting, even though under the standard criteria, the applicant would normally be considered financially dependent on his or her parents. An institution may adjust on a case-by-case basis a student's data elements used to calculate his or her EFC and cost of attendance due to unusual circumstances documented by the institution.



Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements


Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Students are limited to one Academic Competitiveness Grant during any award year (July 1 through June 30). Funds for these grants are usually disbursed at least twice during an award year. Students may only receive an Academic Competitiveness Grant until they have received a bachelor's degree.


Post Assistance Requirements


Institutions will be required to furnish reports, periodically, on the disbursement of funds, as well as furnish any other reports the Secretary requires. No reports are required of students.


Annual audits will be made.


All records pertaining to the eligibility of each Academic Competitiveness Grant recipient and all fiscal management records must be maintained by the institution for a period of 3 years or until an acceptable audit has been completed, whichever is later. Selected students will have the information on their applications verified.


Financial Information

Account Identification



(Grants) FY 07 $350,000,000; FY 08 est $440,000,000; and FY 09 est $643,000,000.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

Grants are up to $750 for first-year students and up to $1,300 for second-year students. In combination with other Federal student aid, awards may not exceed a student's cost of education; in addition, award levels may be reduced if available funding is insufficient to support estimated program costs. Average award: est $787.


Program Accomplishments

This program was created by the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2006; it began operation on July 1, 2006. The Department of Education estimates that awards will support 559,000 students.


Regulations, Guidelines and Literature

This program was created by the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2006; it began operation on July 1, 2006. Contact the program office for more information.


Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

Federal Student Aid Information Center. Telephone: (800) 433-3243. Regional Director, Federal Student Aid, the Director of Financial Aid at the institution the student wishes to attend, high school guidance counselors, or directors of State agencies.

Headquarters Office

Office of Postsecondary Education, Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20202. Telephone: (800) 433-2343.

Web Site Address


Related Programs

84.007, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
84.032, Federal Family Education Loans
84.033, Federal Work-Study Program
84.037, Perkins Loan Cancellations
84.038, Federal Perkins Loan Program-Federal Capital Contributions
84.042, Trio-Student Support Services
84.044, Trio-Talent Search
84.047, Trio-Upward Bound
84.063, Federal Pell Grant Program
84.066, Trio-Educational Opportunity Centers
84.069, Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership
84.376, National Science And Mathematics Access To Retain Talent (SMART) Grants


Examples of Funded Projects



Criteria for Selecting Proposals



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