January 21, 2011

Rehabilitation Counseling Program receives grant

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Rehabilitation Institute Rehabilitation Counseling Program is the recipient of a $750,000 training grant.

The Rehabilitation Institute, a program in the College of Education and Human Services, received the grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration. The University receives the funds in annual $150,000 increments for five years, retroactive to 2010, and will subsidize training of 25 rehabilitation counselors.

According to Thomas Upton, associate professor in rehabilitation counseling and administration, five students each year will get their tuition and fees paid and will receive monthly stipends and other support and mentoring, including being able to attend an educational conference.

“It is notable that for more than 50 years our graduating rehabilitation counselors have been finding careers in state and federal rehabilitation programs and related nonprofit or community-based agencies. More than 60 percent of our master’s graduates between 2005 and 2010 found work in one of these settings,” Upton said.

He said the grants will assist a diverse group of students. The program currently has 79 full-time students enrolled, with about 20-25 percent having varying disabilities. About 84 percent of the grant funding goes directly toward training future rehabilitation counselors, enhancing the quality of rehabilitation counseling master’s degree students and targeting their vocational aspirations to the public vocational rehabilitation systems, according to Upton.

SIUC has the oldest such program in the country and has offered master’s level training in its rehabilitation counselor education program since 1955. The program, accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education, Inc., currently ranks sixth in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report.

“This grant offers a great opportunity to train graduate students who are U.S. citizens,” Upton said. Students in the master’s rehabilitation counseling program are from a wide variety of undergraduate programs.

This is actually the second time the University has received this five-year grant. The first cycle ran 2005-2010 and the program is now in place through 2015, bringing a total of $1.5 million to SIUC to train rehabilitation counselors. Upton said he is proud to be directly involved in securing funding for graduate tuition and fees to SIUC during this time of financial uncertainty. He said some of the grant monies to cover expenses for students to attend a conference are new with this funding cycle and that attending a research conference in California is an excellent learning opportunity for them.

Upton is not only the project director at SIUC but also a former recipient of some of the RSA grant funds as a student and a past vocational rehabilitation counselor. In exchange for the grant-funded scholarships, graduates can either repay the money after graduation or, as almost always happens, trade two years of work for a state or federal rehabilitation program or related non-profit agency/community-based agency for each year they got a training grant scholarship.

“The grant-funded scholarships allow the rehabilitation counselors-in-training to focus on learning and practicing what they’ve learned,” Upton said.

For more information about the Rehabilitation Counseling program, contact Upton at 618/453-8287 (e-mail tupton@siu.edu) or Michelle Mansfield at 618/453-8263.