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Grant initiative aims to boost higher education institutions

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — A new initiative from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. aims to help the state’s higher education institutions improve their effectiveness and sustainability. Charting the Future for Indiana’s Colleges and Universities, the organization says, will provide grants totaling nearly $110 million to help schools “address their key challenges and take advantage of promising opportunities to enhance their relevance and sustainability.” The initiative will take place in three phases over the next year.

The challenges to be addressed through the initiative could include a decline in enrollment, competition from other job training programs such as apprenticeships and certificate programs, expanding online learning opportunities and changes in federal funding policies for higher education.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Lilly Endowment Communications Director Judy Cebula said the endowment believes the institutions and their leaders know their challenges best.

“We’re asking leaders to bring creative ideas and ones that address the unique challenges that each institution is facing,” said Cebula. “We’re encouraging collaborative approaches; that’s probably the biggest single directive we’re giving them is ‘think collaboratively.’ Those collaborations could include cooperation among institutions; it might even be about cost sharing between colleges and universities or even collaboration with other organizations here in the state or even around the country.”

As part of the first phase, Lilly Endowment awarded a total of more than $6 million in planning grants to all of the state’s eligible two- and four-year colleges and universities. The grants, which ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 based on student enrollment at each school, were designed to encourage schools to identify strategies they wanted to pursue and prepare for the next phase of funding.

The second phase will see institutions applying for implementation grants of $1 million, $2.5 million, or $5 million, which will be awarded in late 2020. The endowment says the proposals should present strategies and programs designed to:

  • prepare students for rewarding employment and to live engaged and meaningful lives, especially in Indiana;
  • result in economies of scale and other cost efficiencies or otherwise enhance the viability and financial condition of their institutions; or
  • enable institutions to further their educational missions more effectively in new or innovative ways.

“What we’re seeing is that strategies need to be developed that can help (schools) deal with their financial realities,” said Cebula. “So these grants are not about plugging holes or gaps by federal funding, for example, but really about helping the institutions be creative about ways in which, long-term, there can be sustainable solutions to some of the challenges.”

In the third phase, Lilly Endowment has set side $40 million, which will be awarded on an invitational basis for large-scale proposals. The organization says the proposals would seek to address “extraordinarily compelling challenges or opportunities” and require more funding than what is being offered through the Phase 2 implementation grants.

The Phase 3 proposals could receive funding of up to $10 million. The endowment says it will select the proposals that will receive funding in late 2020.

“We are encouraging Indiana’s higher education leaders to be bold and imaginative in developing creative and collaborative strategies to strengthen their institutions and further their educational missions more effectively,” Dr. Ted Maple, vice president for education at the endowment, said in a news release. “We are impressed with the dedication of Indiana’s higher education leaders to face head on their challenges and embrace their opportunities to build brighter futures for their students and colleges and universities.”

You can learn more about the Charting the Future for Indiana’s Colleges and Universities initiative by clicking here.