The Secretary shall, in accordance with the provisions of this division, carry out a program of making grants and contracts designed to identify qualified individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prepare them for a program of postsecondary education, to provide support services for such students who are pursuing programs of postsecondary education, to motivate and prepare students for doctoral programs, and to train individuals serving or preparing for service in programs and projects so designed.
For the purposes described in subsection (a), the Secretary is authorized, without regard to section 6101 of title 41, to make grants to, and contracts with, institutions of higher education, public and private agencies and organizations, including community-based organizations with experience in serving disadvantaged youth, combinations of such institutions, agencies and organizations, and, as appropriate to the purposes of the program, secondary schools, for planning, developing, or carrying out one or more of the services assisted under this division.
Unless the institution or agency requests a smaller amount, an individual grant authorized under this division shall be awarded in an amount that is not less than $200,000, except that an individual grant authorized under section 1070a–17 of this title shall be awarded in an amount that is not less than $170,000.
In making grants under this division, the Secretary shall consider each applicant’s prior experience of high quality service delivery, as determined under subsection (f), under the particular program for which funds are sought. The level of consideration given the factor of prior experience shall not vary from the level of consideration given such factor during fiscal years 1994 through 1997, except that grants made under section 1070a–18 of this title shall not be given prior experience consideration.
In making grants under this division, the Secretary shall consider the number, percentages, and needs of eligible participants in the area, institution of higher education, or secondary school to be served to aid such participants in preparing for, enrolling in, or succeeding in postsecondary education, as appropriate to the particular program for which the eligible entity is applying.
The Secretary shall encourage coordination of programs assisted under this division with other programs for disadvantaged students operated by the sponsoring institution or agency, regardless of the funding source of such programs. The Secretary shall not limit an entity’s eligibility to receive funds under this division because such entity sponsors a program similar to the program to be assisted under this division, regardless of the funding source of such program. The Secretary shall permit the Director of a program receiving funds under this division to administer one or more additional programs for disadvantaged students operated by the sponsoring institution or agency, regardless of the funding sources of such programs. The Secretary shall, as appropriate, require each applicant for funds under the programs authorized by this division to identify and make available services under such program, including mentoring, tutoring, and other services provided by such program, to foster care youth (including youth in foster care and youth who have left foster care after reaching age 13) or to homeless children and youths as defined in section 11434a of title 42.
The Secretary shall inform each entity operating programs under this division regarding the status of their application for continued funding at least 8 months prior to the expiration of the grant or contract. The Secretary, in the case of an entity that is continuing to operate a successful program under this division, shall ensure that the start-up date for a new grant or contract for such program immediately follows the termination of the preceding grant or contract so that no interruption of funding occurs for such successful reapplicants. The Secretary shall inform each entity requesting assistance under this division for a new program regarding the status of their application at least 8 months prior to the proposed startup date of such program.
Not later than 45 days before the date of the commencement of each competition for a grant under this division that is held after the expiration of the 180-day period described in subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall update and publish the guidance described in such subparagraph.
In the case of evidence of a technical or administrative error listed in clause (i)(I), the Secretary shall review such evidence and provide a timely response to the applicant. If the Secretary determines that a technical or administrative error was made by the Department or an agent of the Department, the application of the applicant shall be reconsidered in the peer review process for the applicable grant competition.
In the case of a peer review process error listed in clause (i)(I), if the Secretary determines that points were withheld for criteria not required in Federal statute, regulation, or guidance governing a program assisted under this division or the application for a grant for such program, or determines that information pertaining to selection criteria was wrongly determined to be missing from an application by a peer reviewer, then the Secretary shall refer the application to a secondary review panel.
The secondary review panel described in subclause (I) shall conduct a secondary review in a timely fashion, and the score resulting from the secondary review shall replace the score from the initial peer review.
The final peer review score of an application subject to a secondary review under this clause shall be adjusted appropriately and quickly using the score awarded by the secondary review panel, so as not to interfere with the timely awarding of grants for the applicable grant competition.
To the extent feasible based on the availability of appropriations, the Secretary shall fund applications with scores that are adjusted upward under clauses (ii), (iii), and (iv) to equal or exceed the minimum cut off score for the applicable grant competition.
The Secretary shall conduct outreach activities to ensure that entities eligible for assistance under this division submit applications proposing programs that serve geographic areas and eligible populations which have been underserved by the programs assisted under this division.
In carrying out the provisions of paragraph (1), the Secretary shall notify the entities described in subsection (b) of the availability of assistance under this subsection not less than 120 days prior to the deadline for submission of applications under this division and shall consult national, State, and regional organizations about candidates for notification.
The Secretary shall provide technical training to applicants for projects and programs authorized under this division. The Secretary shall give priority to serving programs and projects that serve geographic areas and eligible populations which have been underserved by the programs assisted under this division. Technical training activities shall include the provision of information on authorizing legislation, goals and objectives of the program, required activities, eligibility requirements, the application process and application deadlines, and assistance in the development of program proposals and the completion of program applications. Such training shall be furnished at conferences, seminars, and workshops to be conducted at not less than 10 sites throughout the United States to ensure that all areas of the United States with large concentrations of eligible participants are served.
The Secretary may contract with eligible entities to conduct the outreach activities described in this subsection.
For competitions for grants under this division that begin on or after January 1, 2009, the Secretary shall determine an eligible entity’s prior experience of high quality service delivery, as required under subsection (c)(2), based on the outcome criteria described in paragraphs (2) and (3).
The outcome criteria under this subsection shall be disaggregated by low-income students, first generation college students, and individuals with disabilities, in the schools and institutions of higher education served by the program to be evaluated.
In order to determine the extent to which each outcome criterion described in paragraph (2) or (3) is met or exceeded, the Secretary shall compare the agreed upon target for the criterion, as established in the eligible entity’s application approved by the Secretary, with the results for the criterion, measured as of the last day of the applicable time period for the determination for the outcome criterion.
For the purpose of making grants and contracts under this division, there are authorized to be appropriated $900,000,000 for fiscal year 2009 and such sums as may be necessary for each of the five succeeding fiscal years. Of the amount appropriated under this division, the Secretary may use no more than ½ of 1 percent of such amount to obtain additional qualified readers and additional staff to review applications, to increase the level of oversight monitoring, to support impact studies, program assessments and reviews, and to provide technical assistance to potential applicants and current grantees. In expending these funds, the Secretary shall give priority to the additional administrative requirements provided in the Higher Education Amendments of 1992, to outreach activities, and to obtaining additional readers.
The term “low-income individual” means an individual from a family whose taxable income for the preceding year did not exceed 150 percent of an amount equal to the poverty level determined by using criteria of poverty established by the Bureau of the Census.