The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has just published its FY 2001 Forecast of Discretionary Funding Opportunities online. This resource provides the most timely look at ED’s grant opportunities, as well as primary contacts for more information on applying for specific grants.

The forecast web site (http://ocfo.ed.gov/grntinfo/forecast/forecast.htm) provides an array of information, organized by program offices within the department, about virtually all programs and competitions for which ED has invited or expects to invite applications for FY 2001. It also provides actual or estimated deadlines for the transmittal of applications under these programs.

“We’re trying to give some idea of when to look for upcoming notices of various grant programs,” said George Wagner, a member of ED’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer who helps update the web site. “For a grant applicant seeking ongoing funding, maybe this isn’t so important, but for new applicants, the early notice is especially important.”

One innovation in the forecast this year is ED’s addition of a specific contact person for each grant program. “In the past, we might have had a link to the grant application or an office at the department that oversaw the program, but we feel that having the actual person to contact is superior,” Wagner said.

The online grants forecast was the brainchild of several ED staff members about three years ago, said Kirk Winters, a member of the Office of the Under Secretary who helps manage ED’s eMail and web systems. “Three years ago, this forecast was completely paper-based,” he said. “Announcements were made twice each year in the Federal Register.”

Now that the basic information is on the web, ED plans to update it at least monthly until well into the spring, when the grant deadlines have passed. “It’s more valuable to update the information throughout the year instead of just doing it in the fall and letting it get old,” Winters said.

Regular updates are particularly important in an election year, during which ED’s budget will be operating on continuing resolutions from Congress as the U.S. House and President Clinton play politics. “We might be able to update the site more often this year if developments occur that affect ED’s budget,” Wagner said.

One caution for all users of the forecast site: The document is an advisory, not an official application notice. No grant program is officially available until an announcement is published in the Federal Register.