November 03, 2015

Rehabilitation Counseling Program wins grant

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Rehabilitation Counseling Program in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Rehabilitation Institute is the recipient of a new $1 million grant to train new counselors in an effort to address a national shortage. 

Thomas Upton, professor in rehabilitation counseling and administration, said the grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration provides $200,000 in funding in each of the next five years. That will cover the cost of training 25-30 new counselors over the course of the grant. 

The grant will pay tuition and fees for selected students and provide them with monthly stipends and additional support and mentoring. They will also be able to attend a national educational conference where they can meet authors of scholastic articles they have read, network and possibly even display their posters and make presentations.  

“This grant provides a wonderful opportunity for students to complete their graduate studies in a highly sought-after field and graduate without debt incurred to obtain their master’s degree,” Upton said. 

He noted that SIU’s rehabilitation counselor education program is longstanding and highly acclaimed. The oldest of its kind in the United States, it has offered master’s level training in its rehabilitation counselor education program since 1955. The program, which is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education, Inc., is ranked fourth in the country by U.S. News and World Report. 

The subsidized educational awards for students are presented on a competitive basis and those chosen as Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Scholars must be U.S. citizens or have permanent residency to be eligible. Students must be enrolled in the program at SIU in order to receive a grant. However, Upton notes that since typically five or six new students receive funding each year, he believes the training grant is a valuable recruiting tool. 

Recipients serve two years of paid employment within a state or federal rehabilitation program or related non-profit agency/community-based agency in exchange for receiving a year of paid schooling, mentorship, training and a stipend. Or, they can choose to repay the monies after graduation. 

Upton is a vocal proponent of the RSA grant program. He’s a former recipient of RSA grant funds as a student and was previously a vocational rehabilitation counselor. He’s seen first-hand the positive impact the funding can have on students as well. 

This is actually the third such grant SIU has received, thanks to Upton’s efforts. The university received five-year grants of $750,000 for training rehabilitation counselors in 2005 and in 2010. Thanks to those grants, SIU has funded graduate training for about 60 students, Upton said. 

For an application or to learn more about the Rehabilitation Services Administration grant, contact Ian Ruark at Additional information about SIU’s Rehabilitation Counseling Program is available online at or from Upton at or by calling 618/453-8287.