After receiving an honorary doctorate from Hofstra at the 2015 commencement ceremony on May 17, Representative Kathleen Rice announced that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded an estimated $1.25 million grant to Hofstra University’s Early Childhood Interdisciplinary Professionals Program, according to a university press release.
The grant, which will be allocated over five years, is for the School of Education to prepare highly qualified teachers to support young children with disabilities and their families. The grant’s first installment will total $250,000 and will be allocated in the upcoming fall semester.
“This federal funding will expand access to early education by providing more teachers with the advanced training and skills they need to help young children with disabilities succeed throughout their lives and achieve their full potential,” said Rice.
Dr. Stephen Hernandez, Special Assistant Professor of Specialized Programs in Education and co-director of this grant, was grateful for Rice’s support. “We’re always thankful for the support that our government leaders provide to us, and her providing us with the news of the grant was very exciting,” Hernandez said.
The Hofstra Early Childhood Interdisciplinary Professionals Program (HECIP) is a dual-degree program which certifies graduate students in early childhood education as well as early childhood special education in New York State, allowing them to provide services for children from birth through grade 2.
The majority of this grant’s money must be put toward tuition remission for graduate students in the program.
“The federal government requires that 65 percent of all the money goes toward student support. The budget that has been developed, provides for that 65 percent of student support through tuition remission. There’s a lot of significant recording responsibilities that we have to the U.S. Department of Ed, so some of that money has to be used to help in the management of the grant,” said Hernandez, who is also the Director of Early Childhood Special Education at Hofstra.
This is not the first time that Hofstra’s School of Education has been awarded such a large grant. In fact, just two years ago, it was given a similar grant, amounting to approximately $1.25 million over five years.
“It was slightly different, in that [that] grant is for a different program in early childhood special education (the Hofstra Early Childhood Intervention Specialist Program (HECIS)), it’s one that requires the applicants to already be certified as educators and then they pursue a master’s degree and an advanced certificate in applied behavior analysis,” Hernandez said. “This new grant doesn’t require the individuals to already be certified,” he added.
This new grant means that the School of Education is going to be able to enroll 51 additional students into its early childhood special education program—and 16 of their 48 credits will be paid for.
This offers a relief for those graduate students, who pay $1,170 per credit hour. According to Dr. Hernandez, the students applying for this program can come from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds including psychology, and speech and hearing.
Hofstra has led the way in servicing people with disabilities, and these grant programs are another chapter in the university’s endeavor to follow in the footsteps of former Provost Harold Yuker (1973-1982), who was born with cerebral palsy and served as provost from 1973 to 1982, in trying to change attitudes toward disabled people.
“He led the way to making Hofstra a fully accessible campus. Hofstra, even before the law required it, was accessible to individuals with disabilities. Since then we have taken the lead role, I believe, on Long Island, in preparing highly qualified individuals to be special educators in schools on Long Island, in New York City, in the region and in the country,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez also wanted to stress the importance of the program’s “interdisciplinary” nature.
“[Students] are going to be taking a majority of courses in early childhood special education but they’ll also take courses in elementary education, literacy studies, multiculturalism and in technology as well as in understanding the related services that many young students with disabilities have as part of their educational program,” he said.
He also said that the students that will come out of this program are going to have a very well-rounded foundation of education that’s going to allow them to work with children, families, other professionals and administrators, in how to best serve children with sometimes severe disabilities.
“I’m very proud of receiving this grant and obviously proud of the HECIS grant that we received as well, and we’re going to be able to do some good work in providing significate tuition remission to a lot of graduate students in the next five years,” Hernandez said.