UTEP gets $1m for Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program

The Master of Rehabilitation Counseling (MRC) program at The University of Texas at El Paso has received nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to provide scholarships for 60 graduate students enrolled in the program over the next five years.

The RSA awards grants to colleges and universities to provide scholarships to students interested in pursuing careers in rehabilitation, such as rehabilitation counseling. In return, recipients are required to “pay back” their scholarships by working at a public rehabilitation program for two years for every year of full-time scholarship support received. Public rehabilitation programs could include a state vocational rehabilitation agency or a federally funded center for independent living.

Graduates of the UTEP MRC program serve persons with severe disabilities and contribute to the number of rehabilitation counselors who are from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The program, which enrolled its first graduate students in 2010, has awarded 52 scholarships from prior funding.

“This graduate student support will help us to expand our region’s capacity to address the needs of people with disabilities and increase the availability of rehabilitation counseling in El Paso,” said Barbara Schoen, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program. “Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities to gain employment and live independent lives.”

The need to provide specialized services to individuals with disabilities is well documented. According to the 2010 Census, about 56.7 million people (19 percent of the population ages 16 to 64) reported a disability that interfered with employment. In the city of El Paso alone, estimates from DisabilityPlanningData.com indicated that only 31 percent of more than 17,540 working age adults with a disability were actually employed, compared with 65 percent of adults without a disability.

The Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program is housed in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences in the College of Health Sciences at UTEP.