Assumption Awarded $1 Million Grant to Combat Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Shortage

Oct. 7, 2020
Photo of a group of individuals being served by a Rehabilitation Counselor.

Assumption University's Rehabilitation Counseling program has been awarded a $1 million training grant from the U.S. Department of Education to address a national shortage of rehabilitation counselors – professionals who empower those with varying disabilities to seek an independent lifestyle.

Assumption’s Rehabilitation Counseling program prepares graduates for a career in a helping profession that requires an understanding of how to best provide counseling services to empower those with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities. Assumption employs a multi-disciplinary approach that draws from rehabilitation, sociology, psychology, natural sciences, economics, education, and the humanities to form individuals who become thoughtful and compassionate leaders in fields such as rehabilitation, human services, allied health, and education. 

“At present, there is an acute shortage of qualified individuals to provide care and services for those experiencing some form of disability,” said Nicholas J. Cioe, Ph.D., CRC, director of Assumption’s Rehabilitation Counseling program, who will serve as the grant’s project director. “Through this federal grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Assumption may provide resources for aspiring rehabilitation counselors to pursue their goal of an advanced degree. More importantly, our graduates are well-prepared to empower those with physical, mental, developmental or emotional disabilities to pursue and achieve varying degrees of independence and dignity.”

According to Prof. Cioe, the grant will provide financial tuition assistance to students currently enrolled in or interested in the rehabilitation counseling program with priority to enrolled students currently working or completing their internships in federal or state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies assisting individuals with disabilities. By collaborating with five partner state VR agencies In Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wyoming, the grant will provide approximately $20,000 in support to 40 to 50 scholars who will fill some of the annual estimated 100 new rehabilitation counseling jobs in these five partner states (Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).  

Prof. Cioe added that Assumption was awarded the grant because of the program’s alignment with the mission of the RSA and strength of its online program, which has been providing master’s degrees in rehabilitation counseling for over 10 years. For more than 50 years, Assumption’s nationally ranked program has been training rehabilitation counselors through rigorous academic and experiential learning components on campus.

“RSA is concerned about national federal and state VR staffing shortages, especially in rural settings, and our well-established asynchronous online program helps address this need,” he explained. “In addition, Assumption is aligned with the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Code of Ethics (CRCC), which recognizes that disability often occurs in tandem with other social justice issues. Mission congruence between Assumption University, the CRCC, and the Rehabilitation Counseling program fosters a social justice approach to the allocation of grant funds.  By partnering with federal and state VR organizations we are able to alleviate some of their staff training costs but also spread funds to as many eligible students as possible.”

Though a majority of the grant will be used for student tuition, the grant will also support faculty and student scholarship such as attending academic conferences and enhancing the program.  

The Rehabilitation Counseling program at Assumption University offers both traditional campus and fully online 60-credit CACREP accredited Master of Arts programs. In addition to the MA programs, Assumption’s Rehabilitation Counseling program also offers a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) and two graduate certificate programs: one for transition specialists who support 14 to 22 year-old students with disabilities, and the Special Ops: Service Members, Veterans, and their Families program.