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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 15, 2010

UI receives grant to help fill shortage of special education leaders

William Therrien and John Hosp, associate professors in the University of Iowa College of Education Department of Teaching and Learning, have received a $1.25 million U.S. Department of Education grant to help train graduate students as special education leaders.

The grant, titled "Special Education Leaders for Iowa (SELIA): Training the Next Generation to Serve High Needs Children with Disabilities," is a four-year initiative that will double the number of UI students seeking doctorates in special education, according to Therrien, grant co-principal investigator.

"There is a shortage of special education faculty nationwide," said Therrien. "This grant will allow special education doctoral students to complete their program in a timely manner because they will not have to work while pursuing their doctorates."

Annual tuition and fees for the program are $9,929.00. The UI is the only institution in Iowa with a doctoral program in special education.

Currently, there are eight doctoral students in the program. Hosp said he hopes the grant will bring that number up to 16 with a special emphasis on recruiting students from traditionally underrepresented groups.

The grant is based on the philosophy that there are three main areas of competency necessary for leadership personnel in special education -- research, teaching and service.

"The curriculum will provide students access to the latest research on evidence-based practices for children with disabilities, particularly high-needs children with disabilities such as students with emotional and behavior disorders," Hosp said.

Over the past two decades, the number of doctorates awarded in special education in the U.S. has decreased by 30 percent.

"This decrease is happening despite increases in the population of students with disabilities and well-documented shortages of teachers for these students," Therrien said.

In fact, Hosp said, well over 90 percent of school districts reported shortages of qualified special education teachers in 2008, according to data from the American Association for Employment in Education.

Therrien added that over 30 percent of open faculty positions in special education go unfilled each year, meaning that fewer teachers are being trained by highly-qualified special education leadership personnel.

"These students deserve an education from qualified professors," Therrien said. "It's critical that we train enough educators to meet this population's needs so students with disabilities can contribute to society at their fullest potential."

Megan Foley-Nicpon, a UI assistant professor in counseling psychology in the UI College of Education, co-authored the grant with Therrien and Hosp and will serve as the students’ public policy advisor.

“Along with a rigorous program in special education, students will also pursue individualized areas of study in public policy and complete a practicum in Washington, D.C.,” Foley-Nicpon said. “To truly be leaders in the field, special education professionals must also advocate for children and adults with disabilities at the local, state and federal levels. Our students will graduate with the knowledge base and skills needed to effectively advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities.”

For more information, contact Therrien at 319-335-5606.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: William Therrien, 319-335-5606,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,