The new Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Counseling program at The University of Texas-Pan American received a major boost this month with the awarding of a $750,000 five-year grant by the U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to support student scholarships.
Dr. Bruce Reed, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services, said this is a major coup for the program that begins this fall. The RSA Doctoral Long-term Training Grant will provide between three to five scholarships per year, which will include full tuition and fees and living expenses for Ph.D. students in rehab counseling.
Reed, who himself benefitted from these types of grants, said the RSA support will allow the program to recruit nationally. Most importantly, he said the Ph.D. students will be able to pursue their studies full time without the financial worries.
"What a wonderful thing to receive a graduate degree and not be in debt," Reed said.
Currently, the Department of Rehabilitation has three bachelor's and master's level RSA grants being utilized according to Reed.
"We are the largest minority institution the feds have supported through multiple grants," he said.
Dr. Irmo Marini, professor and Ph.D. coordinator of the Department of Rehabilitation, was the principal investigator for the grant, a federal grant awarded by RSA from a pool of money for long-term training grants to fund primarily master's programs in rehabilitation counseling.
"It is relatively rare for Ph.D. programs to obtain them (grants)," Marini said.
Assisting Marini with the writing of the grant were Reed and Department of Rehabilitation faculty and personnel, including Professor Tom Shefcik, and special projects coordinators Tony Casas and John Heiden and his staff.
According to the U.S. Department of Education Web site, the intent of the RSA grant is to increase the number of qualified doctoral-level rehabilitation professionals intending to remain in teaching or administration of higher education rehabilitation training programs, particularly those preparing undergraduate and graduate students to work with persons who are handicapped and applicants/clients of the state/federal programs.
Marini said the awarding of the scholarships will begin immediately. The grant covers five years at $150,000 per year, 75 percent of which must go toward student scholarships he said.
"Depending on availability and other variable factors, we anticipate awarding three to five scholarships per year, which will pay for tuition and fees and can also provide students an approximate $1,000 per month living expense," Marini said. "Students will also have monies for travel expenses to present at conferences and all recipients will have to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher to retain their scholarship."
As part of the grant, scholarship recipients will go through a five-course statistical rotation in learning to become researchers, professors and administrators. For each year they receive the grant, students will be required by the RSA to do two years payback working in positions experiencing shortages in personnel. Students will also be conducting original research emphasizing border populations, working with persons with disabilities, learning how to write and manage grants, and teaching in-class and online courses.
Ultimately what this five-year grant means to the new program, Marini said, is that it will afford students the alternative of not having to work to pay for their education and offer uninterrupted and concentrated studies.
"It allows them to attend full time and concentrate on their studies, be able to finish sooner, and become employed in any type of faculty position, rehabilitation agency administration, or nonprofit administration, all areas of which are experiencing critical shortages," he said.
To learn more about the Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Counseling program, visit http://www.utpa.edu/rehab.