Federal Grants

The system of federal grants in the United States is tremendous in size and scope. There are currently 900 grant programs in operation, which fall under the jurisdiction of 26 federal agencies.

The 900 federal grants are awarded in 21 categories, which run the spectrum from agriculture and the arts to social services and transportation. The diversity of programs and the many agencies that fund them makes accountability a daunting mission.

It’s for this reason that the US General Services Administration (GSA) was sanctioned with the mission of overseeing and auditing all federal grants, regardless of the issuing entity.

To further complicate the picture, federal grants are awarded to many different types of recipients. Recipients are anyone receiving federal assistance by the award of a grant. Recipients can be individual people, corporations, or charitable organizations.

Some federal grants are awarded as money but the grant value itself may also be in the form of personnel assistance, access to property or equipment, or some other form of payment in kind, such as with food, medicine, or health care services.

Federal grants do not have to be repaid, as a loan would be but there are almost always specific guidelines required for its use. In many cases, the award must be used for a specific purpose or within a specific period of time. In some cases, the recipient must provide a service in return for the award.

One such service to provide in return for federal grants is when a medical student receives grant money to pay for medical school. In many cases, the med student promises to work in an area historically considered underserved by the medical community. He or she must work in this specific area for the length of time specified in the terms and conditions of the grant award.

In some cases the federal grants offered to medical students are awarded during school and can be used for educational expenses, such as tuition, books, and lab fees and equipment. In other cases, the student accrues student loans which are forgiven by the government once the predetermined amount of time working in an underprivileged community is served.

The terms and conditions of federal grants will vary, of course, according to the issuing agency, the scope of the program being funded, and the recipient’s economic or professional circumstances.