[Federal Register: October 16, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 200)]
[Page 55763-55766]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Part IV

Department of Education

Rehabilitation Training: Rehabilitation Long-Term Training--
Comprehensive System of Personnel Development; Final Priority and 
Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year 1999; Notices

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Rehabilitation Training: Rehabilitation Long-Term Training

AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 
Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final priority for fiscal year 1999 and subsequent 
fiscal years.


SUMMARY: The Secretary announces a final funding priority for fiscal 
year 1999 and subsequent fiscal years under the Rehabilitation 
Training: Rehabilitation Long-Term Training program. The Secretary 
takes this action in order to assist State vocational rehabilitation 
(VR) agencies in carrying out their Comprehensive System of Personnel 
Development (CSPD) plans.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This priority takes effect on November 16, 1998.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Beverly Steburg, U.S. Department of 
Education, 61 Forsyth Street, SW., Room 18T91, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. 
Telephone: (404) 562-6336. Individuals who use a telecommunications 
device for the deaf (TDD) may call the TDD number at (404) 562-6347. 
Internet address: Beverly__Steburg@ed.gov
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternate format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed in the preceding 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice contains a final priority under 
the Rehabilitation Training: Rehabilitation Long-Term Training program. 
This program provides financial assistance for--
    (1) Projects that provide training leading to academic degrees or 
academic certificates in areas as identified by the Secretary; and
    (2) Projects that provide support for medical residents enrolled in 
residency training programs in the specialty of physical medicine and 
    On June 11, 1998 the Secretary published a notice of proposed 
priority for this program in the Federal Register (63 FR 32106). This 
notice of final priority contains one change from the notice of 
proposed priority, adding language to clarify that projects must fund 
only academic degree or academic certificate granting programs. The 
change is fully explained in the Analysis of Comments and Changes 
located elsewhere in this notice.

    Note: This notice of final priority does not solicit 
applications. In any year in which the Secretary chooses to use this 
priority, the Secretary invites applications through a notice in the 
Federal Register. A notice inviting applications under this 
competition is published elsewhere in this issue of the Federal 

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    In response to the invitation in the notice of proposed priority, 
14 parties submitted comments. An analysis of the comments and of the 
changes in the priority since publication of the notice of proposed 
priority follows. Technical and other minor changes--and suggested 
changes the Secretary is not legally authorized to make under the 
applicable statutory authority--are not addressed.
    Comment: Five commenters offered suggestions concerning the format 
of the training. Suggestions were made encouraging the support of 
programs that will provide an academic certificate in specialty areas 
that could be counted toward a Masters degree; be based on adult 
learning principles; demonstrate collaboration between State VR 
agencies and training programs; accommodate schedules of working staff 
(e.g., distance learning programs, competency-based programs, and other 
non-traditional approaches), cover tuition as well as non-tuition 
costs, such as books, travel, and fees; and allow part-time students.
    Discussion: This priority is premised on the concept that 
applicants should design the training approach best suited to provide 
academic degrees and academic certificates to VR counselors. Many of 
these and other approaches were included in the Supplementary 
Information section of the proposed priority as examples of possible 
approaches. If an applicant proposes to carry out any of these 
approaches, the peer review process will be used to evaluate the merits 
of the approach. However, the Secretary has no basis for requiring all 
applicants to carry out any of these approaches.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority require a 
written agreement between the State VR agency or agencies and the 
training institution.
    Discussion: There must be a strong link between the training 
institution and State VR agencies involved in this effort. In fact, the 
regulations require an applicant to allow the State VR agency an 
opportunity to review and comment upon the application before it is 
submitted. The importance of this linkage is also recognized in one of 
the selection criteria, which pertains to the ``relevance to the State-
Federal rehabilitation service program.'' While an applicant may enter 
into a written agreement with a State VR agency, the Secretary has no 
basis for requiring it. For example, an applicant may propose to 
include a distance learning training component, which cuts across State 
lines. As the distance learning training program develops, it may 
become available to students nationwide. This would require a training 
institution to have a written agreement with every participating State, 
which would not be feasible for the training institution to manage. 
Thus, the Secretary believes that the requirement of State agency 
review and the review criteria of relevance to the State-Federal 
service program will adequately address the concerns of linkage between 
the State agency and the training institution.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested limiting the competition to 
training institutions that are accredited by the Council on 
Rehabilitation Education (CORE), as opposed to allowing institutions 
that have applied for, but not yet received, CORE accreditation to 
    Discussion: Training institutions that have applied for CORE 
accreditation are eligible to compete for Rehabilitation Long-Term 
Training program grants in the field of rehabilitation counseling. 
There is no basis upon which to limit eligibility in this regard. 
However, the Secretary notes that the support of those institutions has 
been used in the past to foster the growth of accredited programs.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested waiver of the requirement that 75 
percent of the project funds be used for student scholarships and 
stipends. One commenter suggested that this be done to allow for the 
building of educational infrastructure, especially in the first year of 
a grant. Another commenter noted that the 75 percent requirement 
eliminates a continuing education approach by programs that operate on 
``soft money'' (i.e., grant funds).
    Discussion: Under the regulations for the Rehabilitation Long-Term 
Training program, the Secretary may waive this requirement under 
certain circumstances, including the establishment of new training 
programs. The 75 percent requirement ensures that training grants 
provide a sufficient number of qualified personnel to the public 
rehabilitation program (primarily State agencies and providers of 
services to State agencies) because the program requires a payback 
obligation on scholarship recipients, which requires them either to 
work in the public rehabilitation program or to repay the cost of the 
scholarship. Waiving the 75 percent requirement would reduce payback 
obligations under the grant. While providing waivers in certain

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situations, such as in the first year of a project aimed at building 
infrastructure, seems reasonable and may be permitted, the number and 
extent of waivers provided under this competition need to be 
appropriate in relation to the purpose of the program. In addition, 
this priority is established to provide academic degrees and academic 
certificates, not to provide general continuing education.
    Changes: Language in the priority has been added to clarify that, 
consistent with section 302(b)(1) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act), projects funded under this priority must fund only 
academic degree or academic certificate programs.
    Comment: One commenter offered specific language for the priority 
relating to innovative approaches and increasing professional knowledge 
and skills. The commenter referred to activities such as lifelong 
learning, participating in dynamic learning environments, enhanced 
personal knowledge and skills, and building professional networks.
    Discussion: If an applicant proposes to include those activities, 
the reviewers of the application will evaluate its merits. However, the 
Secretary has no basis for requiring all applicants to carry out any of 
these approaches.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority require 
curriculum for counselors that includes the various disciplines that 
provide services to individuals with disabilities, specifically 
communication disorders, such as deafness, hearing loss, and speech and 
language disorders.
    Discussion: The Secretary agrees with the importance of training in 
the various disciplines involved in rehabilitation. However, this is a 
curriculum matter that would be addressed by the academic training 
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority not be limited 
to Masters degree programs, but include undergraduate degrees in cases 
in which that degree applies.
    Discussion: The priority does not limit efforts to training at the 
Master's degree level. Training to provide academic degrees and 
academic certificates at the undergraduate level can be provided.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the priority give 
preference to programs that do not require or would waive the 
requirement for a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or other entrance exam as 
a condition for acceptance into the program.
    Discussion: The Secretary notes that the purpose of this training 
is to improve the academic credentials of State VR agency employees. 
Giving preference to programs that waive customary academic 
requirements, such as GREs, may be counterproductive. Furthermore, the 
admissions policies of academic training institutions are not an issue 
in which the Department becomes involved.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters raised issues concerning the requirement 
that trainees pay back two years of paid employment within the public 
rehabilitation system or nonprofit rehabilitation or rehabilitation-
related agencies for every year of support they receive. Three primary 
issues were raised. First, one commenter suggested that we allow 
payback only at VR agencies. A commenter asked if there is any 
difference in the payback obligations if the grantee is a State VR 
agency as opposed to a training institution. A commenter also asked 
whether, if a State policy requires payback in the State agency, a 
State agency may enforce that requirement when using Rehabilitation 
Services Administration (RSA) training funds.
    Discussion: The Secretary reminds the commenters that the statute 
(section 302(b) of the Act) and the regulations governing the 
Rehabilitation Long-Term Training program (34 CFR part 386) require 
payback at one of the settings identified previously. Neither the 
Secretary nor the grantee may impose more stringent requirements. The 
Secretary reminds State VR agencies that they may use State Vocational 
Rehabilitation Unit In-service Training program funds or VR program 
funds for the purposes of CSPD and can impose State payback 
    Change: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that awards be made only to State 
VR agencies, which then could negotiate with training institutions.
    Discussion: The program statute does not permit limiting the 
competition to State agencies.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the Department distribute 
funds to States based on need (e.g., number of staff that need to be 
trained or training resources available).
    Discussion: These competitions are not limited to States. The 
awards are competitive and will be judged on factors in the selection 
criteria. The Secretary agrees that need is an important factor and 
intends for applicants to demonstrate need in their applications. In 
addition, other factors will be assessed during the peer review 
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the Secretary give preference 
to projects that demonstrate collaboration between State VR agencies 
and institutions of higher education.
    Discussion: Section 302(b)(2) of the Act requires collaboration 
with VR agencies for all long-term training grants.
    Changes: None.


Rehabilitation Training: Rehabilitation Long-Term Training


    The Secretary has determined that it is in the best interest of the 
VR program to support creative, innovative approaches for assisting 
State agencies to meet their statutory and regulatory personnel 
requirements for VR counselors and to carry out their CSPD plans. 
Training approaches proposed by applicants must address the unique 
learning needs of currently employed VR counselors, reflect their 
learning styles and professional experiences, and be accessible at a 
time and in a place that would maximize participation. In an effort to 
maximize benefit to the VR program while minimizing costs, potential 
applicants may wish to consider collaborative models with, for example, 
community rehabilitation programs, other public agencies, or private 
entities. The notice of proposed priority published on June 11, 1998 in 
the Federal Register (63 FR 32106) included more detail in the 
Supplementary Information section of the notice.

Final Priority

    Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3) and section 302(a)(1) of the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (the Act), the Secretary gives 
an absolute preference to applications that meet the following 
priority. The Secretary funds under this competition only applications 
that meet this absolute priority:
    Projects must--
    (1) Provide training leading to academic degrees or academic 
certificates to current vocational rehabilitation counselors, including 
counselors with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and those from diverse 
backgrounds, toward meeting designated State unit (DSU) personnel 
standards required under section 101(a)(7) of the Act, commonly 
referred to as the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development 

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    (2) Address the academic degree and academic certificate needs 
specified in the CSPD plans of those States with which the project will 
be working; and
    (3) Develop innovative approaches (e.g., distance learning, 
competency-based programs, and other methods) that would maximize 
participation in, and the effectiveness of, project training.
    Multi-State projects and projects that involve consortia of 
institutions and agencies are also authorized, although other projects 
will be considered.
    The regulations in 34 CFR 386.31(b) require that a minimum of 75 
percent of project funds be used to support student scholarships and 
stipends. The regulations also provide that the Secretary may waive 
this requirement under certain circumstances, including new training 
    Finally, the Secretary intends to approve a wide range of 
approaches for providing training and different levels of funding, 
based on the quality of individual projects. The Secretary takes these 
factors into account in making grants under this priority.

Goals 2000: Educate America Act

    The Goals 2000: Educate America Act (Goals 2000) focuses the 
Nation's education reform efforts on the eight National Education Goals 
and provides a framework for meeting them. Goals 2000 promotes new 
partnerships to strengthen schools and expands the Department's 
capacities for helping communities to exchange ideas and obtain 
information needed to achieve the goals.
    This final priority would address the National Education Goal that 
every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge 
and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the 
rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The final priority furthers 
the objectives of this Goal by focusing available funds on projects 
that improve the skills of State VR agency rehabilitation counselors, 
which will improve the responsiveness of the VR system to adults with 
disabilities and their vocational pursuits.

Intergovernmental Review

    This program is subject to the requirements of Executive Order 
12372 and the regulations in 34 CFR part 79. The objective of the 
Executive order is to foster an intergovernmental partnership and a 
strengthened federalism by relying on processes developed by State and 
local governments for coordination and review of proposed Federal 
financial assistance.
    In accordance with the order, this document is intended to provide 
early notification of the Department's specific plans and actions for 
this program.

Electronic Access to This Document

    Anyone may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or 
portable document format (pdf) on the World Wide Web at either of the 
following sites:


To use the pdf you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader Program with 
Search, which is available free at either of the previous sites. If you 
have questions about using the pdf, call the U.S. Government Printing 
Office toll free at 1-888-293-6498.
    Anyone may also view these documents in text copy only on an 
electronic bulletin board of the Department. Telephone: (202) 219-1511 
or, toll free, 1-800-222-4922. The documents are located under Option 
G--Files/Announcements, Bulletins and Press Releases.

    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register.

    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR parts 385 and 386.

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 721(b) and (e) and 796(e).

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number: 84.129W, 
Rehabilitation Training: Rehabilitation Long-Term Training)

    Dated: October 9, 1998.
Judith E. Heumann,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 98-27785 Filed 10-15-98; 8:45 am]