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Ph.D. Student Funding Opportunities

The Department of Special Education has a legacy of conducting groundbreaking research, establishing innovative practices, and developing widely used methods and materials for practitioners, researchers, parents, and policy makers.

The Ph.D. degree program, which prepares students for leadership positions as special educators in schools, colleges, universities, research settings, and human service agencies, is competency-based and emphasizes research and teaching. Your program of study will consist of core requirements and an individually designed series of courses and competencies. Through the core requirements, you will acquire fundamental research methodology skills requisite for advanced positions in special education. You can select your focus of study from high-incidence disabilities (learning disabilities, behavior disorders), early childhood special education, severe disabilities and autism, or visual impairments.

All admitted Ph.D. students receive funding for up to five years of study. Those invited to join us will receive a financial package which includes full tuition, a monthly stipend competitive with any college of education in the nation, and health insurance. Based upon presented qualifications, the college will nominate select students for additional honor scholarships and fellowships awarded by both the college and the graduate school. These merit awards supplement the baseline college award.

The Department of Special Education is the recipient of leadership training grants from the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education. These grants provide doctoral students with tuition, monthly stipends, health insurance, and professional travel. To be eligible for these grants, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Other funding streams are available for those who do not meet these requirements.

Recently Received Doctoral Grants

Preparing the Next Generation of Scholars in Severe Disabilities

  • Designed to equip future faculty to conduct research, training, and service that improves educational outcomes for students with severe disabilities (including autism) in high-poverty elementary and secondary schools.
  • Students will receive tuition and stipend support for full-time study.
  • Training includes partnerships with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and urban Nashville schools, hands-on internships in high-need schools and collaborations with scholars across disciplines on research and teaching.

Preparing Special Education Leaders Capable of Linking Intensive Instruction with Common Core State Standards

  • Designed to address the need for special education faculty in higher education to train a next-generation of special educators for high-need, high-poverty schools.
  • Students will receive tuition and stipend support for full-time study.
  • Focus is on training and research related to the integration of academic and behavior goals, skills related to Common Core standards, and how to incorporate interventions based on a student’s individual needs.

National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention

  • Designed to prepare special education leaders experts in training and research on issues related to providing intensive intervention to students with disabilities who have intense service needs due to persistent and severe academic and behavior difficulties.
  • Students will receive tuition and stipend support for full-time study.
  • Center has partners at six other universities and national centers in special education allowing for cross-site collaborations and internships.