About the Personnel Development Program
The OSEP Personnel Development Program is one of the nation’s oldest and most visible federal student scholarship programs, originating in 1958 under P. L. 85-926, the Education of Mentally Retarded Children Act for training personnel in mental retardation. OSEP anticipates that over 3000 scholars funded under this program will receive scholarships from approximately 80 different Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) between 2007 and 2010.
The need for well–prepared and skilled personnel to provide special education and related services to children and youth with disabilities and their families became evident when the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) was passed in 1975. The main objectives of this Program are to: 1) reduce special education personnel shortages, 2) increase the quality of personnel, and 3) enhance the capacity of IHEs to meet the personnel demands of local education agencies. Financial awards are made to IHEs through a competitive grant process, and the successful IHEs are required to use 55-65% of their budget (depending on the type of grant they receive) to provide scholarships to students.
The service obligation component was established in the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997, because many Personnel Development Program scholars left the field of special education upon completion of their program of study. Scholarship recipients are now required to work in the field of special education and related services two years for every year of scholarship support they receive or they are required to repay the scholarship amount. In the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, the responsibility for tracking scholars’ employment and service obligations was transferred from IHEs to ED.
In 2007, ED contracted with Optimal Solutions Group, LLC to establish the National Center on Service Obligations (NCSO). The main objective of NCSO is to collect pertinent information in order to track and report the status of scholars' service obligations. NCSO will also provide information about the service obligation, primarily to scholars, universities, and the scholars’ employers.