MIAMI – Florida International University is leading a trio of universities in a $7.5 million program to support diverse students pursuing doctoral degrees in special education.

The U.S. Department of Education has provided $3.75 million to fund a program called Project: INclusive Consortium of Leaders in Urban Disabilities Education. FIU, Arizona State University and Syracuse University are matching those funds, for a total grant amount of $7.5 million.

The grant will support 26 doctoral students at FIU, Arizona State University and Syracuse University who will research ways to address the needs of culturally diverse students with disabilities in an urban setting.

At a time when many school districts and states face a shortage of special education teachers, particularly those who are prepared to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities, this program will bolster the ranks of faculty who would be responsible for preparing future teachers for the classroom.

“There’s been a decline in people going into the field – particularly there’s a gap in people of color and people interested in studying issues related to urban settings,” said Elizabeth Cramer, a professor of special education at FIU and director of the new program. “As teachers are training in the field, we need researchers and professors who have this knowledge, skillset, and interest to prepare teachers.”

By recruiting diverse educators for the program, the hope is faculty will become as diverse as the students they will serve. Research has shown this increases the likelihood of success among their students.

A national recruiting effort will be underway shortly to bring 12 doctoral students to Florida, eight to New York and six to Arizona. Students are expected to begin the program in Fall 2020.