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Student Engagement, Retention, and Success Initiative (SERS) - Instructions and Information

Deadline for Submission: February 23, 2018

Questions should be directed to:


SERS grant funds are designed to support new or existing campus services or programs that:

  • serve underrepresented or other targeted student populations including, but not limited to, underrepresented minorities, economically disadvantaged students, adults, veterans, and individuals with disabilities;
  • close gaps of retention, graduation, or other metrics for underrepresented minorities, PELL recipients, or other targeted student populations;
  • have the potential to significantly increase and/or impact educational attainment levels or further diversity initiatives at the institution; or
  • produce outcomes that correspond to the TBR or institution strategic goals; Completion Agenda; and/or the Drive to 55/Complete College TN Act.


  • Single institution proposals from TBR colleges (Colleges of Applied Technology and Community Colleges) or Locally Governed Institutions (LGIs)
  • Eligible collaborative proposal:
    • Collaborative proposals where TBR colleges (Colleges of Applied Technology and Community Colleges) or LGIs serve as the lead with other TBR Colleges, other LGIs, UT campus(es), and/or other entities (educational institution, LEA, agency, community group, etc.)

Program Types and Funding Levels:

Program Type Maximum Funding
Program Enhancement (existing programs) $35,000
Pilot Program (new programs) $25,000

Grants are designed to provide short-term funds to augment or supplement campus funding (non-A&D funding) for campus services or programs – not to substitute for ongoing funding from the institution.

A program enhancement should be used for existing campus programs that relate to student success, retention, or engagement. These programs are not currently funded or have not been previously funding by TBR’s A&D or SERS grant monies. Program enhancements should not be used supplant salaries or operating budgets from existing programs.

Pilot programs allow institutions to experiment or test programs, initiative, or interventions before they become institutionalized. Pilot programs will need plans to incorporate the program into the campus’s operations following the grant, depending on project success.

Ineligible costs include:

  • Purchase of equipment or software that does not primarily benefit current year program participants;
  • Speaker fees or honorariums, unless such fees are part of a broader workshop/seminar or training program;
  • Scholarships and tuition/maintenance fee costs;
  • Unless specifically authorized in the grant award notice, funds may not be used as a means to supplement or fund additional campus personnel.

Priority Categories and Preferences:

A: High Impact Practices:
HIP Focus Areas identified as part of TBR's High Impact Practice Initiative as of December 2016: ePortfolios; service-learning; certifications; student research; learning communities; work-based learning; first-year seminars/experience; honors programs; study abroad; technology-enhanced learning

  1. HIP Focus: priority funding for institutions who have completed a self-study of the particular HIP (using the taxonomies that have been developed by TBR or other assessment), can use the self-assessment data to clearly identify next steps for scaling that particular HIP at the institution, and can articulate how funds will be used to implement the plan for scaling the practice
  2. Internationalization of the Curriculum: funding for institutional projects that articulate a campus plan for scaling international education throughout the curriculum.

Requirements for HIP Priority funding:

  1. Must show how the HIP will benefit the success, retention, and/or engagement of the targeted underrepresented group
  2. Must demonstrate use of self-study data of the particular HIP to identify areas for growth
  3. Must demonstrate a campus-wide commitment to grow the HIP through connection to an institutional strategic plan
  4. Must illustrate how the SERS funds will help with the implementation of a campus plan to grow the HIP
  5. Must identify specific measures to be accomplished at the end of the grant cycle
  6. Awardees must present their final data/accomplishments/challenges at a statewide TBR conference and have a summary of their project linked to the TBR website
  7. Awardees are required to participate in system-wide HIP trainings

B.  Collaborative Proposal:
In the case of similar project proposals, funding preference will be given to collaborative grant proposals. Collaborative grant proposals require that each partnering entity provide a letter of commitment to the project from a senior administrator of the organization. The TBR institution submitting the application must serve as the fiscal partner in the event the project is funded.

Submission Requirements:

  • All questions in the attached Grant Proposal Narrative must be addressed.
  • A campus may submit a maximum of 5 (five) applications. Individuals can serve as the project director for only one awarded grant in a given year.
  • Signed proposals must be submitted electronically to with the subject line of Fall 2018 SERS Grant by February 23, 2018.
  • All proposed applications that are race or gender-specific or that consider race or gender when determining eligibility for participation must undergo legal review by the TBR’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) or the institution's legal counsel prior to submitting the final application for funding consideration.
    • Drafts of applications to be reviewed by the OGC must be submitted to the TBR OGC office by close of business on February 9, 2018. All proposed applications must be sent by email to the appropriate campus attorney on the OGC staff. The subject line of the email should read: “SERS Grant Legal Review.

Awards and Notifications:

Award decisions will be communicated to applicants and institution officials by mid-to late-March 2018. Notifications will be simultaneously sent to the Project Director, Diversity Contact and President/Director of each institution. This will be followed by a Letter of Understanding (LOU) that must be signed by the institution. The institution should take steps to ensure that other required project funding is available prior to signing and returning the LOU. The Letter of Understanding requires that the project be implemented as proposed. 

Payment Schedule:
Institutions will receive grant funds in three (3) separate payments.

  • Upon receipt of the signed LOU, 1/3 of the grant total will be transferred after July 1, 2018;
  • 1/3 of the project costs will be transferred upon receipt of the February 4, 2019 mid-term project report (see Post-Award Requirements);
  • Remaining actual expenditures will be reimbursed after receipt of the September 3, 2019 final report (see Post-Award Requirements).

Post-Award Requirements:

Program revisions:  Proposed changes to the scope of services, targeted group(s), project manager or project timeline must be submitted in writing to for approval. Substantive changes may result in reduced funding or revocation of program approval.

Budget revisions: Reallocations between line items of less than $2,000.00 may be made at the discretion of the institution but must be reflected in the final report budget. Budget reallocations between line items that exceed $2,000.00 require prior, written approval. Requests for budget reallocation approval should be submitted with the appropriate reallocation form (to be included with the award letter) to

Extensions:  Requests for extensions that would cause the grant period to extend beyond the fiscal year are not typically approved.  Any such requests for extensions must be submitted in writing to no later than April 30, 2019. The request must include a justification of the need for such an extension and have documentation of approval from the President.

Mid-Year Report: A mid-year report will be due on February 4, 2019.  The report form will be provided to the program director. Information about the content and format of this report will be included with the award notification letters. The second payment of grant funds will not be transmitted prior to submission of the final report.

Final Report: A narrative or end of project report including a report of final expenditures and project outcomes must be submitted to by September 3, 2019. All reports must be submitted by the due date.  Information about the content and format of this report will be included with the award notification letters. Final payment of grant funds will not be transmitted prior to submission of the final report.

Non-compliance with any post-award requirements may result in denial of future grant applications.