Grant provides tuition assistance for Access ETSU students

A program at East Tennessee State University that prepares students with intellectual disabilities for meaningful employment has received a $2.5 million boost from the U.S. Department of Education.

Access ETSU is a two-year, non-degree program for individuals with intellectual disabilities who are seeking to enhance their academic, career development and social skills and experiences in a way that is identical to their peers at the university.  Participants attend classes, participate in internships and have access to the same activities and services as other ETSU students.

Through this Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the university can provide assistance for tuition and other fees to eligible students in the Access ETSU program beginning in fall 2021.  ETSU will also use the funding to hire additional staffing, including a program coordinator, an academic coordinator and an employment specialist.

In addition, ETSU is now recognized by the Department of Education as a “comprehensive transition program,” meaning that participants can also qualify for federal financial aid.

“Our primary goal with the program is to prepare our students for gainful employment opportunities,” said Dr. Dawn Rowe, associate professor of Educational Foundations and Special Education in the ETSU Clemmer College.  “Students share their areas of interest and career goals with us and we support them determining appropriate coursework and coordinate employment experiences including internships that are aligned with those goals.”

Rowe is the principal investigator on the grant project and is joined by Dr. Jennifer Cook as co-investigator along with Dr. Pamela Mims, Dr. Cynthia Chambers and Dr. Lori Marks, all from ETSU’s Department of Educational Foundations and Special Education.

For more information about Access ETSU, contact Rowe at or visit