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Grad School Funding--Voc Rehab, Grants, Scholarships or Aid?

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  • Grad School Funding--Voc Rehab, Grants, Scholarships or Aid?

    Hi all!

    I apologize for not being around CareCure as much as I'd like; I've been quite busy, but that's no excuse.

    I'm planning to start graduate school in October via the University of Florida's Internet-based Master of Science in Entrepreneurship (MSE) program.

    I had initially planned to seek a Master of Business Administration (MBA) via UF's Internet-based MBA program, and I applied to Voc Rehab for funding assistance, but was rejected.

    For background info on my qualifications for assistance, I'm looking to qualify as a student with a physical disability (specifically C1-2 vent-dependent quadriplegia) who can demonstrate high-achievement, i.e. meet GPA requirements in particular. UF offers an Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (OBSBA) Program and I completed it with a 4.0 GPA (I graduated August 9, 2008; click HERE for a 19-second Windows Media video clip of me rolling across the stage, or click HERE if you want to know more about my educational journey).

    I did not seek funding for my above referenced bachelor's degree, for several reasons. To start with, I'm a Florida resident and thus have in-state tuition. Also, I was essentially a junior when beginning the OBSBA Program and the total cost of tuition and books, spread out over the three years in which I completed the program, was about $3300 per year. Since I'd heard that Voc Rehab was under-funded, and I also knew that, at the time, $3300 per year wasn't extraordinarily difficult for my family to cover, we decided to just pay it ourselves.

    But graduate school will cost roughly $25,000 over 20-months, and I/we will need funding assistance.

    Does anyone know what the best approach is for a quadriplegic to get funding for graduate school? Are there Federal Grants for which quads qualify or is Voc Rehab the government's way to provide such assistance?

    I think I can convince Voc Rehab that I should certainly be employable with the degree I seek. My primary plan is to teach both online and in a classroom at the community college level (Lake Sumter Community College is literally a 5-minute drive from our house). Entrepreneurship is a relatively new field of study being taught at more and more 4-year schools, but to my knowledge, has yet to have introductory-type courses offered at community colleges (certainly not at Lake Sumter anyway).

    Also, the state of Florida now requires community college teachers to have I think 15 credit hours of graduate school work in a particular field/subject, in order to teach classes of that nature (a masters degree is also required). That means something like an MBA with an Entrepreneurship concentration won't suffice (programs I saw didn't have enough hours in Entrepreneurship). And most Masters programs in Entrepreneurship are also relatively new, so there aren't likely an abundance of people looking to teach such courses at community colleges (knock on wood). With the Internet, I could teach anywhere in the world, and I've done more than 100 speaking engagements using PowerPoint since my injury almost 12 years ago. So I'd be comfortable in a classroom, or on camera, using PowerPoint to help me teach students.

    Regarding scholarships, I've looked into some, which will help if I can get one or some, but mostly what I've found is for relatively moderate amounts ($500 or $1000) whereas I/we will need help covering the majority of the $25,000.

    I'm told: "all students in the MSE program are eligible to apply for federal student loans."

    If that's my only choice, we'll do it, but I'd like to checkout all options.

    Thank you for any thoughts or advice you care to offer.

    Bill Miller :-)
    C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 206 High Bowling Game
    Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
    My blog:
    Business website:
    Personal website:
    Wheelchair users -- even high-level quads... WANNA BOWL?

    I'm a C1-2 with a legit 255 high bowling game.

  • #2
    If you have a relationship with your local CIL or if it is a good CIL you may want to bring an advocate with you when meeting with your VR counselor. If you do so -meet with your advocate before meeting together with VR and make sure he/she is squarely in the corner regarding your plans. You are supposed to be the person who develops your rehab plan, your counselor is there just to facilitate. The only argument I believe VR would have is that you are already employable without an advanced degree, however, what your personal goals are is also important and I would use as a counter argument if necessary that perhaps you are employable without the grad degree but not to fulfill your specific vocational goals.

    I am a retired VR counselor and would have supported your goal in a heartbeat. Your prior academic performance certainly indicates this is well within your abilities.

    Remember, you have a right to appeal any decision that is made. They will 1st want you to go through an administrative review where the local district mgr reviews the case, if this is not favorable to you, you retain the right for a formal appeal hearing. Keep appealing until they provide you this service.


    • #3
      Hey Bill,

      I think you'll be too late for most scholarship deadlines for this fall...I know that most of mine were due months ago. BUT, for next year, you should definitely look into the Swim With Mike scholarship. They are sizable awards and are for disabled athletes (90% of recipients are SCI). To qualify, you had to have played a sport in high school (or college). Besides myself, I know there are quite a few other CCers who have been awarded.

      I don't know of any federal grants, but that doesn't mean there aren't any out there. Graduate school level grants are rare...but maybe you can check at the state level? Did you file a FAFSA already?

      I wish you best of luck...sounds like an interesting program!
      Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. -Mahatma Gandhi


      • #4
        Thank you for your advice & encouragement, AncientGimp.

        I don't have a relationship with our local CIL, but I can get a strong advocate to back me. I will start the Voc Rehab process again anew, since this is a new program and plan I wish to pursue.

        Thank you.
        Last edited by BillMiller823; 06-23-2009, 04:25 AM.
        Wheelchair users -- even high-level quads... WANNA BOWL?

        I'm a C1-2 with a legit 255 high bowling game.


        • #5
          With Voc Rehab having a specific goal in mind and sticking to it is necessary to convince them. Some states may have policies against grad school, but Voc Rehab has a lot of stimulus money for the next few years.


          • #6
            Molly, I apologize for the delay replying. Right after I replied to AncientGimp, our power went out for nearly three hours and ended my computer time until now.

            Thanks for the Swim with Mike info -- I saw that link but had no idea it could potentially help me. (I thought it had something to do with paralyzed people "swimming" which isn't something I'm interested in, given that I'm vent-dependent.)

            I played sports growing up, though the only varsity sport in high school I did was weightlifting. If bowling is a sport, then I can still be considered somewhat of an athlete. Our dynamic wheelchair bowling device is sanctioned for league and tournament play -- any league or tournament, anywhere -- bowling with or against able-bodied people and/or wheelchair users. I'm paralyzed from the neck down but have bowled over 200 seven different times. There's more info with my signature below.

            Regarding scholarships, I wasn't sure if or how I could apply, considering I am not in school, and technically haven't been accepted yet. Though (not to brag or jinx myself) as long I score fairly well on the GMAT (what will be a nearly 8-hour exam for me, having a proctor act as my hands and write what I need to solve what can be lengthy problems) then I should not have a problem being accepted into UF's program. I'm already known by the decision makers of the program. For my undergraduate entrepreneurship course, my professor asked me to give a special presentation regarding the entrepreneurial mindset to conclude the semester (I was the only student to present at all that semester). That professor thinks quite highly of me (I finished with a 98 average in his course) and he's one of the decision makers for the masters program.

            But the very fact that I want to teach entrepreneurship courses at the community college level, which will give people some instruction in how to start a business, and small businesses provide for more jobs in the U.S. than all the fortune 500 companies combined -- that should be reason enough for Voc Rehab to want to help put me in that role.

            I haven't checked at the state level or applied for FAFSA yet either. So much to do, so little time, LOL.

            No worries. Things will work out.

            What are you studying at USC?
            Wheelchair users -- even high-level quads... WANNA BOWL?

            I'm a C1-2 with a legit 255 high bowling game.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mike Honcho View Post
              With Voc Rehab having a specific goal in mind and sticking to it is necessary to convince them. Some states may have policies against grad school, but Voc Rehab has a lot of stimulus money for the next few years.
              Roger that Mike. The bachelor's program was "work at your own pace" which could have conflicted with Voc Rehab's interests for me, but this program has a set schedule, so I suppose I'll be considered fulltime. No worries. Things will work out.
              Wheelchair users -- even high-level quads... WANNA BOWL?

              I'm a C1-2 with a legit 255 high bowling game.