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Second Group of Students Sought in Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program

People can have federal funding pay for their education if they are looking to train as vocational rehabilitation professionals who help individuals with disabilities prepare for and find meaningful work.

In 2020, Emporia State University received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education/ Rehabilitation Services Administration to train vocational rehabilitation professionals whose goals are to help individuals with disabilities prepare for and find meaningful work.

Through the grant, Emporia State’s counselor education department supports students with tuition, training, and professional development. The grant began in October 2020 and will run through September 30, 2025.

“Since the online program’s inception in 2015, we have had 75 people who have become or are in the process of becoming vocational rehabilitation counselors,” said Dr. Damara Goff Paris, associate professor and project director of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) grants at ESU. The master’s program in rehabilitation counseling was established in the 1960’s at ESU, and over 600 individuals have graduated from its face-to-face and online programs.

“For the past two years, there has been a 100% pass rate of our rehabilitation counselor scholars who have taken the national Certification in Rehabilitation Counseling (CRC). This will be our second – and last – cohort for the five-year grant cycle,” Paris added.

Applicants who are accepted into the program will receive online instruction leading to a master’s degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling.

The grant aims to address shortages in professional services for people needing rehabilitation services in the Midwest region. As one of the a few universities in the region offering a fully online master’s degree format in rehabilitation counseling, the program aims to reach rural areas where it is difficult to access rehabilitation education and training.

The grant awarded is for $1,253,877, with $889,139 (71%) provided by federal funding through the U.S. Department of Education, and the remaining $364,688 (29%), provided by ESU.

Individuals interested in pursuing the master’s degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling have until October 14, 2022 to apply to be part of the Spring 2023 cohort. People who are interested can contact Dr. Damara Paris at Students from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma have selection priority, however, interested parties from other states are highly encouraged to apply. More information about the program can be found at

“This is the fifth grant our program has written, and the fourth grant that we have secured since 2014, bringing in over $4 million in funds to support students in our program over the past eight years,” Paris said. “The writing team who contributed to this grant competition were myself, Dr. Katrina Miller, and Dr. Danielle Nimako, with support from Sara Andres, our graduate administrative assistant.”

The rehabilitation counseling master’s degree program at ESU is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). In 1999, ESU was the first university in Kansas to move courses into the digital environment; by 2003 the rehabilitation counseling program had established an online presence, and the full rehabilitation counseling curriculum became available online in 2014.