NJIT’s $1.25 Million Grant Writing Mistake

NEWARK — Every year since 1999, New Jersey Institute of Technology has offered a college-prep program for low-income high school students from Newark who hope to become the first in their family to attend college.

Now, the program may end, not by way of budget cuts or lack of interest but because the university submitted an application for $1.25 million in federal funds and didn’t double space it. 

NJIT is among the dozens of colleges and organizations nationwide whose application for the federal Upward Bound program was recently rejected for not following new formatting rules put in place this year, according to the university.

The U.S. Department of Education’s decision means NJIT won’t receive the $250,000 in annual funding it anticipated over the next five years and, barring a reversal, the university will be forced to cancel the 65-student program, NJIT said.

The university will also need to eliminate a position at its Center for Pre-College Programs, it said.

The decades-old Upward Bound program provides tutoring, counseling and other support for students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education.

In Newark, the program was open to English language learners from East Side High School, Barringer High School S.T.E.A.M Academy and Barringer High School Academy of Arts and Humanities.

Students had access to Saturday classes in computers, science, math, English, and Spanish at NJIT as well as counseling, mentoring and financial aid workshops, among other opportunities.

According to the federal government’s application guidelines for Upward Bound, titles, headings, footnotes, quotations, references, and captions may be singled spaced. But all text in the application narrative, including charts, tables, figures, and graphs need to be double spaced, with a specific requirement of “no more than three lines per vertical inch.”

NJIT did not double space its narrative, according to the university.” –NJ.com

Here are a few words from the GrantWatch.com and GrantWriterTeam.com Founder & CEO, Libby Hikind on the subject:

My daughter sent me this article to remind me of my early career, when as both a grant writer and an educator, I formed a partnership with an early childhood experienced professional (who was not a grant writer).

I wrote and revised, day and night (with her input) a proposal to the federal government that would align HeadStart; Universal PreK; and other early childhood goals and performance objectives.  It seemed that everyone had their own goals and lists of objectives and the teachers needed to do triple the documentation and planning work for programs that received multiple funding streams for the same child.

The proposal was excellent – BUT!!!!!

I had to make my overseas flight a day before the grant was due.

I left my document in the hands of my “then partner”, to format the text according to the specific RFP directions (margins, spacing, font, pagination) and to submit.

I do not know what happened or why? – but I remember feeling a real loss when I received a letter that my grant application was rejected because of formatting errors.

The experience taught me a valuable lesson – early on.  Never let anyone format your final copy.  I am grateful to pass this lesson on to my grant writers on GrantWriterTeam.com

Formatting directions are not optional!! They are mandatory.  Your document must pass the pre-screening or it will land in the circular file (the wastebasket) before anyone of consequence ever sees it. 

About the Author: Staff Writer and Editor for Grant Writer Team and affiliates.