Graduate school involves taking on a financial burden for almost anyone considering further education; for individuals who also have medical expenses, financing both can feel overwhelming. Though dependent on the area of study, Peterson’s reports that graduate programs currently average $30,000 and $40,000 for public and private institutions, respectively. With so much money on the line, prospective students will be pleased to know there are a number of scholarships catering to their specific needs.
Physical impairments: This scholarship is open to graduate students with spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, neurogenic bladder or ostomy. Eligible students can be studying any field.
Open to graduate students with cystic fibrosis, the Elizabeth Nash scholarships recognizes students pursuing a wide variety of degrees at accredited institutions in the United States.
Physical disabilities: Graduate students with disabilities who have written a business plan for academic or personal use are able to submit these projects, along with a 500 to 1,000-word essay about what they learned during the process, for a chance to win this cash award.
The Christopher Mark Pitkin Memorial Scholarship is awarded to graduate students who are members of the hemophilia and bleeding disorders community, whether suffering themselves or the relative of someone who is.
Graduate students who have been diagnosed with hemophilia A or hemophilia B are candidates for receiving this award, which is sponsored by Pfizer.
The Board of Young Adult Survivors scholarship is awarded to a Baltimore or Washington, D.C. area graduate student who has battled cancer or supported a relative during their cancer journey. Awards are not dependent on area of study.
Regardless of their intended area of study, graduate students with visual impairments are encouraged to apply for this annual scholarship funded by the ACB.
AFB offers numerous scholarships to visually impaired graduate students, including one for individuals studying a topic related to rehabilitation or education of blind individuals. Other eligible fields of study include STEM, literature or music.
Graduate students who are either blinded veterans, or the spouse or dependent child of a blinded veteran, are eligible to apply for the Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship. Awards are not dependent on specific degree areas.
In concert with the National Achievement Awards, the Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Award is given to a visually impaired student pursuing graduate studies.
The Graduate School Scholarship offered by LG is available to any student enrolled in a master’s or PhD program with a visual impairment.
The Keaton K. Walker Scholarship is open to graduate students on the basis of merit, no matter their chosen field of study.
Speech, language and hearing loss: ASLHF offers a variety of scholarships to graduate students with speech, language or hearing loss, who are studying communication sciences and disorders.
Students who have received a Cochlear Baha device are eligible to apply for the Anders Tjellström Scholarship, regardless of their field of study.
Female graduate students with disabilities can apply for the Ethel Louise Armstrong scholarship, regardless of their area of study.
AAPD is able to offer this scholarship to graduate students with disabilities that are pursuing degrees in communications or other media-related studies, thanks to a generous endowment by NBCUniversal.
The Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability is open to any graduate students with disabilities, with preference given to those who are pursuing a course of study related to disability and health.
Graduate students with any disability are encouraged to apply for this one-time award, which is given to students in fields related to mathematics, science, medicine, technology or engineering.
Graduate or PhD students with disabilities who are studying computer science are eligible to apply to this award. Canadian students are also eligible to receive $5,000. Awards will be given based on a student’s demonstrated passion for the field.
Graduate students with any disability recognized by the ADA, DSM0V, IDEA or other governing body are welcome to apply for the Incight Scholarship, provided they are permanent residents of Oregon, Washington or California.
Attending graduate school with a disability doesn’t have to be a source of stress or anxiety, as many institutions now offer exceptional services to help students on every step on their journey. According to data supplied by the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate students with disabilities currently make up eight percent of master’s students and seven percent of doctoral candidates. As evidenced in the table below, women account for slightly more of students with disabilities at this academic level:
Though a statistical breakdown specific to types of disabilities seen amongst graduate students is not available, NCES data on individuals under 21 provides insight on the most and least common disabilities.
Because it is illegal for schools to inquire about any disabilities of a student applicant, it is critical for those who need special assistance during this process to self-identify their disability. While all students will be evaluated against the same rubric, regardless of their health, school administrators can accommodate special needs such as providing large-format applications, or providing a tour of the campus highlighting special services and accommodations.
Students with disabilities must often navigate multiple scenarios each day requiring extra time or forethought to ensure they are able to get around campus and have any specific learning tools they need for classes.
Because postsecondary students must self-identify disabilities to their institution to receive accommodations or modifications, it’s important for students to have proper documentation that they can easily present to the disability services office on arrival. Some of the frequent accommodations students receive include:
Aside from a raft of services offered by individual colleges and universities, students with disabilities also have numerous resources available through local and national organizations. Some of the best places to seek information on navigating graduate school include:
Navigating graduate school can be difficult for all students, but for those with visual or hearing loss, the challenges can seem doubled at times. The National Foundation for the Blind reports that 13.7 percent of individuals with a visual impairment hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, while a study by Hands & Voices found that approximately 2.1 percent of all deaf students currently hold a master’s degree. The section that follows was designed to create awareness about the technologies and resources available to help students with these disabilities excel at the graduate level.
Vision: Visually impaired grad students have access to multiple assistive technologies these days, including Braille printers, translators and displays, personal data assistants, screen readers and magnifiers, CCTV, large-format keyboards and software converting text to speech.
Hearing: Hearing assistive technology systems, or HATS, are wide ranging and include items such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, audio loops, infrared systems, FM systems, alerting devices, speech-to-text devices and personal amplifiers.
Today’s campuses offer numerous resources and accommodations for students, while an institution’s Disability Services office will be able to offer extended individualized services.
Vision: Services for visually impaired students are numerous, ranging from scribes and readers, modifications or additional time for projects or exams. Other services students should look for in any prospective graduate school include well-lit spaces, railings down all hallways and stairwells, and seeing-eye dogs having full access to all spaces.
Hearing: Aside from assistive technologies, schools offer a variety of services for deaf students. Some of the most common include ensuring all classrooms, dining rooms and housing areas include written notifications, providing amplified listening devices, ensuring real-time captioning or notes are available for every class, and modifying assignments or exams.
Whether undertaking a single online class or a full degree, creating an inclusive online learning environment for visually impaired and deaf students is of paramount importance. Some of the ways educators are ensuring all students can take advantage of this method of learning include:
Vision: As technology continues to play a larger role in the learning landscape, one area where schools are focusing their efforts is web accessibility. This emerging area is focused on making online learning accessible by ensuring websites, applications and other content are formatted properly for visually impaired students.
Hearing: With so many students taking advantage of online classes and degrees, numerous colleges are stepping up to the plate by offering programs that cater to students with hearing loss. Because so many classes use webcams and video chat technology to stream lectures, students can take advantage of live captions or sign language communication to interact with their peers and professors.
A student with a disability who attends graduate school is likely to experience many of the same feelings upon entering graduate school as a student without a disability: excitement, hope, anticipation and potentially fear. A major difference is that a student with a disability may have additional decisions to make in terms of what type of environment will best meet their needs, the level of accessibility the environment requires – both physically and in regards to learning – and if there are any additional resources necessary.
The student will also need to consider whether or not he or she would like to disclose the disability officially and request accommodations and services or not, and the potential impact of either course of action. One of the helpful aspects of graduate school is that students will likely have completed an undergraduate degree and can build on what worked best in that environment to help inform their graduate experience.
Schools vary widely in what they offer for students with disabilities. Common accommodations include: note-takers; sign language interpreters or CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) services; the ability to record lectures; extended time on exams or the ability to take an exam in a separate, quiet area; readers; scribes; assistive technology; and changing classrooms to a physically accessible location. In addition, colleges may provide different levels of learning support services like tutoring, academic improvement seminars and Writing Centers.
Access to higher education has increased in the past decade largely due to legislation in both the K-12 and higher education sectors. Although there continues to be significant variation among schools, in general, services and resources for students have increased. As colleges and universities have become more accustomed to providing reasonable accommodations, most schools have a clear system and procedures for students to disclose a disability and receive accommodations, which includes designated staff members whose role is to provide support, information and resources for students.
A current goal for many in the disability services field is to move beyond a perspective that focuses solely on accommodating to one that recognizes the significant benefit to the whole campus of creating environments that are broadly accessible to as many people as possible.
The term ‘universal design’ speaks to the concept of creating highly accessible environments. For example, a curb cut at a grocery store allows a wheelchair user to enter the store but also is helpful to those using shopping carts or pushing strollers. In addition, most schools provide some level of training to faculty, staff and other members of the campus so they are aware both of legal requirements and, hopefully, of the campus commitment to allow all students to equally access the educational environment.
I recommend that students start planning for graduate school early and really research the schools they hope to attend. Once students have narrowed down their options, it is helpful to communicate directly with Disability Services staff to determine in advance what kind of support is available. Prospective students may benefit from connecting with other students on campus both with and without disabilities to hear about their experiences. Whenever possible, I would encourage visiting the campus in person to get a better sense of the overall campus experience. To get a true understanding of the school and whether or not it is a good fit may mean seeking information beyond what is conveyed on the school’s website, and asking specific questions about individual circumstances. The effort to find a graduate program will be worthwhile.
Looking for other creative ways to pay for – or reduce your debt from – a graduate degree? Aside from the scholarship links provided above, these resources are designed to help students navigate the world of scholarships, grants and student loan debt.
Powered by The College Board, this database includes more than 2,200 available scholarships, totaling nearly $6 billion possible funding options.
Pathways to Science offers a database of master’s and doctoral level fellowships for students looking to work within the field of science.
The U.S. Department of Education provides this helpful guide on federal funding options for graduate level education.
Huffington Post shared this helpful post recently, which gives tips to graduate students on ways to cut costs.
U.S. News offers a number of ideas that are outside the box for paying off pesky student loans more quickly after completing a graduate program.
The federal government offers a database of numerous federal bodies eager to share grant funding with graduate students and other individuals contributing to significant research.
This post by Billfold goes into a lot of questions that Millennial students may not have fully researched, including whether or not to start investing in a retirement plan before starting grad school.
Peterson’s is a leading producer of test prep and practice materials, so prospective grad students are likely familiar with this brand. In addition to review materials, the site also provides a helpful scholarship search.
This innovative funding opportunity database connects institutional staff and scholars with organizations looking to fund research while encouraging a collaborative work flow between researchers and faculty.
Cornell University offers a great review of what a student assistantship entails, how to be competitive for these, and benefits included. Other schools typically have similar pages on their website, so the student should research their prospective institutions.