Grants offer opportunities, bring obligations



Over the years, the state of Texas has been cutting the amount of money given to two-year colleges. For Amarillo College, this steady decrease means looking elsewhere for funds.

“Four-year universities are reaping the benefits of most of the state revenue,” Dr. Tamara Clunis, vice president of academic affairs, said. According to Clunis, community colleges get less money than four-year universities, but they serve 70 percent of all the higher education students in Texas. “It is a funding system that we think is broken,” Clunis said.

That’s why AC is turning to grants to meet the funding gap and help finance the college’s vision. “If the community college has a certain strategic plan, you write a grant, because the grant can help support the strategic plan,” Dr. Linda Muñoz, associate dean of academic success, said.

From improving facilities to creating new programs, AC uses grants for many purposes. “Grant awards have been used to strengthen Amarillo College’s infrastructure, curriculum, faculty development, student tutoring centers, technology and improve learning environments for students,” Dr. Claudie Biggers, biology department chair, said.

To win a grant, community colleges have to look for them, apply and qualify. Grants are posted for a wide variety of projects, the same way scholarships are posted for students. There are federal, state, local and private funds available. A posted grant comes with an ‘invitation for proposals’ with specific guidelines required for submissions.

“At the community college, we read it and say, ‘Hey, how does this grant help us meet our strategic goals?’” Muñoz said. “You write the proposal answering all the questions the grant requests for applications, you submit it by the deadline and then you wait to see if they fund you,” she said.

Applying for a grant is a competitive process that requires data, innovative ideas and demonstration of the need to be selected.

“Amarillo College has a very successful grant writing staff that works endlessly to keep the college in compliance with grant requirements and attaining grant awards,” Biggers said. Other faculty and academic leaders can write grants, such as when Clunis, working alone, won a $10 million grant for AC.

Biggers has won two large grant awards, which funded the STEM Research Center and led to the creation of new horticulture-related majors.

“I often compare grant awards to getting a puppy. In the beginning, you really want a puppy and you agree to do anything just so you can get the puppy. Then after you have the puppy it requires a lot of work to feed it, walk it, groom it etc.,” Biggers said.

“Winning a grant award is the exact same experience. Initially you think of all the good things the grant funds will do for the students. Then once you win the award you have to work really hard to meet the grant requirements,” she added.

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