Wednesday, July 15, 2015

No secret: Uncle Sam will pay tuition

The State Department in June announced that it wants to send at least 15 Cubans to graduate school in the United States so they can "more effectively establish, lead, manage, and grow independent organizations in Cuba."
A prospective contractor interested in the program asked the State Department three questions:

  • Will the Cuban government be lending its support to this program?
  • Will participants be able to freely and openly participate in this program?
  • Will the implementing organization be able to partner legally with Cuban organizations and be transparent about all aspects of the program such as who is funding the program?

State Department officials did not answer any of the questions directly. Instead, officials referred the contractor to the Libertad Act of 1996 and the State Department's latest human rights report on Cuba.
Officials wrote the contractor:
The individuals who apply to participate in this scholarship program should be made aware of the program’s sponsorship and funding source.
U.S. officials are seeking a public or private university to carry out the $1.5 million project, called the Cuban Nonprofit Management Scholarship Program. The deadline for submitting questions about the project has been extended to Friday July 17.

Questions and answers submitted so far are below:

Cuban Nonprofit Management Scholarship Program
WHAP-WHAAQPPC-15-003
July 8, 2015

Questions and Answers re Notice of Funding Opportunity published June 23, 2015

Q1. Please clarify if statutorily tax exempt state-controlled entities are eligible to submit applications to the Cuban Nonprofit Management Scholarship Program NOFO (CFDA #19.750).
A1. Yes -- As noted in the NOFO, accredited U.S. public or private institutions of higher education are eligible to apply.

Q2. The NOFO indicates that the goal is to provide participants in the program with graduate level educating resulting in either a “master’s degree or certificate” and that “applicants must provide a plan to accommodate both.” Is it acceptable to include only certificate students in our proposal and project plan?
A2. No. WHA is looking for applicant organizations or institutions that can fulfill both types of programs – a Master’s degree and a certificate program. As noted, they may accomplish this by partnering with other institutions, as necessary. The phrase “resulting in either a master’s degree or a certificate” refers to the students, as an individual student will get either one or the other.

Q3. Can students be expected to pay any of their own expenses, or should the proposal assume that the grantor needs to cover all expenses associated with traveling to and living in the US (e.g. Visa fees, incidentals, required textbooks, clothing, etc.)?
A3. It is expected that the grant will cover almost all costs, and the participants from Cuba will not need to consider cost as a factor in applying. For your reference, from page 7 of the NOFO: “This is a full scholarship and the award will cover almost all participant expenses, including travel, tuition, room and board, insurance, and professional development activities.” In addition, WHA refers you to Tab C (page 23), which details many of the allowable program costs, including those you mention.

Q4. Can you please provide guidance in regards to budgeting for the external evaluation given that assessing the longer term impact of the project would require work beyond the grant period?
A4. As stated in the NOFO, “to the extent possible, given possible limitations on access to alumni and the time frame of the award, the evaluator should also measure the longer-term impact of the award.” Since the evaluation needs to be conducted within the period of the award, the activity of the participants who complete the U.S. program early in the award period may be observed for as much as two or three years after completion of the scholarship whereas it will not be possible to observe those who complete the U.S. program in the last year for as long a time.

Q5. On page 11 under “Desired Results and Illustrative Indicators,” the NOFO presents a table outlining “example indicators that will be measured, as well as illustrative targets, which the recipient will be responsible for monitoring and reporting against during and after the project.” In the same section it also allows the recipient to add additional indicators as appropriate. As part of our application:
  • Should we incorporate all of the example indicators into our PMP?
  • Do we have the flexibility to only incorporate those example indictors that we believe complement our design and supplement the example indicators selected with custom indicators we design?
  • If we can pick and choose which example indicators to include, how many of the example indicators should we include?
A5. The indicators in the NOFO are examples, and are not necessarily prescriptive or comprehensive. Because they are only examples and not the ones you must use, you are welcome to tailor them and/or create new ones that match your program plan and your evaluation plan.

Q6. On Page 10, the NOFO requests we propose an external evaluator to evaluate and assess the project.
  • Given the timing of the project, can you provide us with guidance about when you would want the external evaluation to take place?
  • As an outside evaluator can cost between $300-500 a day and knowing that an evaluation of this scope being requested could take significant time, will the donor be providing additional funds to cover the cost of this evaluator?
  • If the implementer is required to cover the cost of the external evaluator, can you suggest how much of the budget you believe should be set aside to cover this cost?
  • If the implementer already maintains a separate and independent monitoring and evaluation unit within our organization, can we engage this unit to conduct an independent evaluation of the program in place of the external evaluator?
A6. The evaluation will need to be completed within the period of performance for the grant.
There are no additional funds; the evaluation is to be funded from the $1.6 million available for this grant.
The evaluation’s cost is to be determined by the applicant organization and presented in its proposal.
The NOFO states that “the applicant must compete and select an external evaluator….” so the proposal must present such a plan.

Q7. Because certain elements of this program will be occurring in Cuba, such as recruitment and participant post program monitoring,
  • Will the Cuban government be lending its support to this program?
  • Will participants be able to freely and openly participate in this program?
  • Will the implementing organization be able to partner legally with Cuban organizations and be transparent about all aspects of the program such as who is funding the program?
A7. All activities will need to be implemented in accordance with the Libertad Act of 1996.
Link: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/libertad.pdf
You may also find the State Department’s Human Rights Report to be of interest in assessing the situation in Cuba.
Link: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/#wrapper
The individuals who apply to participate in this scholarship program should be made aware of the program’s sponsorship and funding source.

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