As of 10/1/2017, this manual has been retired. For current policies, procedures, and standards for the Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Division, please refer to the following manuals:

In this manual, references to DARS now refer to TWC. The manual includes both links to public content and links to content available only to staff.

Chapter 6: Academic, Vocational, and Technical Training

(Revised 07/07, 02/13)

6.1 Overview

(Revised 10/06, 01/08, 01/16, 07/16)

The Division for Blind Services (DBS) provides academic (college or university), vocational, or technical training for consumers to reach their vocational objectives.

Academic training for consumers is limited to

For qualified individuals, training can include advanced training in a science, technology, engineering, mathematics (including computer science), medicine, law, or a business field.

Vocational rehabilitation services for consumers receiving academic training, other than those services specifically addressed in state statute (such as tuition exemption for blind students), are the responsibility of DBS and not the college or university.

DBS provides support services, not covered in whole or part by comparable benefits, to any eligible consumer successfully completing academic training.

6.1.1 Comprehensive Assessment

Before completing the IPE, counselors must assess a consumer's ability to benefit from academic, vocational, or technical training. If the consumer is transferred from a general caseload, this assessment should be completed before transfer.

6.1.2 Considerations for Services

Before a consumer receives DBS assistance for academic, vocational, or technical training, the VRC or TC should consider the consumer's

Before starting academic, vocational, or technical training, some consumers will benefit from attending CCRC to improve

The consumer must have addressed all areas of the Big 6 using the Confidence Builders philosophy.

6.1.3 Transfer to College Caseload

Counselors with general caseloads are generally expected to transfer cases to college counselors after determining that the consumer meets the following:

The transferring counselor must discuss the transfer with the college counselor to coordinate the referral process. General counselors are encouraged to contact college counselors if assistance is needed in developing the IPE.

6.1.4 IPE Development

The IPE should identify a specific employment outcome and the services necessary for achieving this outcome. The IPE should

The counselor must emphasize the significance of the consumer's participation for successful completion of training and achievement of the employment outcome.

6.1.5 Consumer Responsibilities

A consumer attending academic training must provide the counselor with the following documentation:

A consumer attending academic training must complete the following requirements:

Service authorizations are only issued after a consumer provides the required documentation. The counselor may make exceptions and document them in a case note. The consumer must justify retaking a course, and the counselor must approve the action.

6.1.6 Counselor Responsibilities

Counselor responsibilities include the following:

College counselors may make arrangements with the college or university to obtain required information. The counselor must make at least one consumer contact during the semester to determine progress. This contact may be initiated by the consumer or counselor. Encourage consumers to take the initiative. Meet with the staff of the college's disability office, as necessary, to facilitate accommodations.

6.1.7 Services for Consumers in Academic Training

(Revised 12/11)

Based on consumer need, services for consumers in academic training may include

Consumers may receive tuition assistance if they meet economic need criteria and are

6.1.8 Duration of Undergraduate and Graduate Training

Consumers are sponsored in academic training for the number of credit hours required to complete a specified undergraduate degree program. FD approval is required for sponsorship toward a graduate degree. If a consumer obtains counselor approval for a reduced course load, documented in a case note, then the time for completion of the degree program may be extended.

6.1.9 Questionable Academic Performance

(Revised 7/3/06)

If the consumer's history includes a record of marginal or poor academic performance, the counselor may obtain additional diagnostic evaluations in order to develop a remedial plan of action and determine whether academic training is feasible.

Examples of poor academic performance include

Incompletes must be completed in accordance with the requirements of the college or university.

Consumers who are having academic problems may need

Consumers must be allowed to complete remedial sequence classes if the consumer is making progress. If the consumer fails a remedial class a second time, the consumer must meet with the VRC to evaluate the feasibility of planned academic and employment objectives.

6.1.10 Remedial or Developmental Courses

If a consumer requires remedial or developmental courses to strengthen academic skills, other resources include

If resources are unavailable or impractical, funds may only be used for two semesters.

The FD may grant individual exceptions to ensure that services necessary to achieve an employment outcome are not denied because of the limitation.

6.1.11 Minimum Standards for Hours and Grades

Most colleges and universities have their own policy regarding scholastic probation and DBS uses those standards, including the definition of a full course load.

Because some community colleges do not deny admission, place students on probation, or acknowledge poor performance, DBS requires that the consumer attending such community colleges

Refer to 6.1.5 Consumer Responsibilities for exceptions to the above requirements.

6.1.12 Distance Learning Courses

For consumers taking online or correspondence distance-learning courses, the consumer must meet the same requirements established for classroom courses.

The Certification of Blindness form for tuition exemption may be used for distance learning courses.

The counselor should refer consumers to the EA specialist to

6.1.13 Private and Out-of-State Colleges and Universities for Academic, Vocational, and Technical Training

(Revised 04/08, 01/10, 06/11, 11/13, 01/16)

Academic, vocational, and technical training must be provided through a Texas public, tax-supported institution in Texas, unless one of the following circumstances applies:

This policy applies to training provided on campus or online.

The counselor must document in a case note in ReHabWorks the justification for a consumer to attend a private or out-of-state college, university, or technical or vocational school. The counselor’s immediate supervisor and the director of programs management will review the case note.

After obtaining written approval from the director of programs management, DBS may provide financial assistance for a consumer to attend a private or out-of-state college, university, or technical or vocational school.

Tuition for private or out-of-state colleges, universities, or vocational or technical schools must not exceed the in-state tuition for Texas state colleges, universities, or vocational or technical schools in Texas.

If tuition for private or out-of-state colleges, universities, or vocational or technical schools is not approved or needed, DBS may provide payment for other resources required to attend such schools, without obtaining supervisory approval.

Other resources for which DBS may provide payment include the following:

6.2 Academic Training — Procedures

6.2.1 Admission Procedures

The consumer must follow the academic training admission procedures by

The VR counselor must

6.2.2 Registration Procedures

The consumer must

The VR counselor must

6.3 Reader Services

Reader services are defined as oral reading or other similar services by one individual to a person who is blind. The material read is not otherwise accessible to the consumer. Reader services may be used for academic training. The counselor and consumer must explore the availability of other non-visual media before purchasing reader services. Reader services may include

6.3.1 Eligibility for Reader Services

A consumer who is legally or totally blind is eligible for reader services.

The consumer need not participate in the cost of reader services.

6.3.2 Comparable Benefits for Reader Services

The counselor or consumer may determine if there are Texas Education Agency funds for reader services by contacting the disability coordinator at the university or college.

6.3.3 How to Process Reader Services

If DBS is to purchase reader services, the counselor must

6.3.4 How Much to Requisition

(Revised 01/09)

Hourly rates are negotiated between the consumer and reader and reported on DARS2011, Reader Services Log. Maximum allowable monthly payments are prorated according to the number of course credit hours being taken towards the degree plan.

During the regular semester or quarter, a counselor generates a service authorization of

For courses taken in the summer, a counselor generates a service authorization of

With justification, the rate per credit hour can be increased at the counselor's discretion with field director approval.

If a consumer drops a course during the semester or quarter, the counselor reduces the monthly amount of reader service payments accordingly.

6.3.5 Consumer Responsibilities

The consumer must

6.3.6 Reader Services Handbook

Reader Services Handbook (with cover for printing)

The VR counselor must

6.3.7 Resource for Recorded Texts

(Revised 10/12)

DBS consumers can obtain recorded textbooks from

Learning Ally
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Telephone: (866) 732-3585

6.3.8 Registration

(Revised 10/12)

Before the consumer can receive materials, he or she must register with Learning Ally and receive a borrower identification number.

To register, a consumer must

The consumer receives the Learning Ally borrower identification number in two to three weeks. Learning Ally expedites applications when attached to book orders, and mails available materials as soon as the application is processed.

6.3.9 Reader Service Contracts

(Revised 10/12)

Reader service contracts provide a convenient way to pay for reader services. Using a contract or designating a payroll vendor for reader services does not infringe upon a consumer's independence. If the consumer loses a reader at a crucial time during the semester, he or she will not be burdened with finding a new reader, the university will help find a new one.

Reader services contracts are available at Stephen F. Austin State University.

6.4 Tutoring Services

(Revised 04/14)

The counselor must consider providing a tutor when

6.4.1 Tutor Qualifications

The tutor must have the necessary experience or skills to teach the consumer. If the school does not assign the tutor, the counselor must document the tutor's relevant experience or skills in the case record.

6.4.2 Tutoring Fees

When tutorial services are provided, the counselor must document the timeframe for the services to be provided, along with the estimated total amount of payment, using the DARS2012, Service Agreement. When appropriate, the counselor must negotiate for a group rate. The counselor may request supervisory approval if he or she determines that the rate should exceed $20 per hour based on the instructor’s qualifications, knowledge, and experience related to technical or other specialized academic programs. The counselor must complete the DARS2012, Service Agreement before initiating services.

6.5 Books and Supplies

(Revised 10/08)

DBS may purchase course-related textbooks and supplies for consumers in college and university training.

For undergraduate students, generate the service authorization (SA) with an estimated amount of $50.00 per semester hour.

For graduate students, generate the SA with an estimated amount $75.00 per semester hour.

The consumer should purchase used textbooks (current edition) when available, if the consumer can read and scan the text.

On the service authorization, include

Attach a store receipt to the service authorization.

6.6 Purchase of Equipment

DBS may buy equipment only if the consumer needs it to maintain academic success to meet the employment outcome.

Examples of equipment that may be purchased for consumers are found in 6.6.1 Equipment Available through the Warehouse below. In some instances, a specialist's evaluation is required to determine the nature of the equipment to be purchased.

6.6.1 Equipment Available through the Warehouse

The equipment available through the warehouse includes

6.6.2 Equipment that May Be Available through New or Used Consumer Equipment Warehouse Stock

The equipment that may be available through new or used consumer equipment warehouse stock includes

6.6.3 Equipment that May Be Available on Some Campuses for Use without Purchase

The equipment that may be available on some campuses for use without purchase includes

An EAS evaluation is required for telecommunications, sensory and other technological aids and devices. See Chapter 32: Telecommunications, Sensory, and Other Technological Aids and Devices for more information.

6.6.4 Equipment Available through the State Library without Cost

Equipment available through the state library without cost includes

6.7 Comparable Services and Benefits

6.7.1 Definition

Comparable services and benefits are provided or completely or partially paid for by

The comparable services and benefits must be

In this section, comparable services and benefits mean any resource available to assist a consumer throughout undergraduate or graduate college training.

Comparable services and benefits must be applied to the cost of housing.

6.7.2 Sources of Comparable Services and Benefits

The following are sources of comparable services and benefits:

6.7.3 Scholarships

While scholarships do not meet the definition of a comparable benefit, consumers are encouraged to apply for local scholarships. Some organizations that may have scholarships include

Financial aid offices in each college have additional sources for scholarships.

6.7.4 Securing a Pell Grant

Pell Grant funds are used to pay for tuition, fees, books and other academic costs. If the Pell Grant amount is greater than the tuition and fees, the consumer may use the additional funds for other education expenses, under the terms of the grant. To receive a Pell Grant,

  1. the consumer submits the completed FAFSA application for Financial Aid and/or Pell Grant from the campus financial aid office with assistance as needed;
  2. the Department of Education evaluates the application, determines eligibility and notifies the consumer and school where the consumer is enrolled or plans to enroll; and
  3. the school, if the application is approved, calculates the amount of grant and the specific costs to which grant funds may be applied.

The consumer must apply annually for a Pell Grant.

Loan Defaults

If the consumer has defaulted on a Guaranteed Student Loan, the Department of Education will deny a Pell Grant and other forms of financial aid. Before DBS funds are used for training, the consumer must make a good-faith effort to repay the defaulted loan.

VR Counselor Responsibilities

The VR counselor must

Consumer Responsibilities

The consumer must

6.8 Maintenance

(Revised 10/15)

A college student may need maintenance assistance for supplies, room and board, etc. Maintenance payments may not exceed $55 a week and are ordinarily limited to:

6.8.1 Room and Board

Short-term housing maintenance is used only for short-term housing expenses that are incurred as a direct result of participation in VR assessments or services. It may not be used to pay a customer's mortgage payment or the customer's usual and customary rent for housing, which are considered normal living expenses.

When it is expected that short-term housing maintenance (in excess of normal living expenses) will exceed a total of three months (cumulatively or consecutively), the TWS-VR team must initiate the process to set up the landlord and/or lessor as a provider for "room and board" during the first month for which short-term housing maintenance is authorized. Refer to Chapter 43: Purchasing Goods and Services for Consumers, 43.17.3 Setting Up and Paying Providers for more information on this process. If the landlord or lessor refuses to be set up as a provider for any reason, alternate housing must be explored. If no other acceptable options are available, justification for paying the customer directly for ongoing room and board must be clearly documented in a case note and reviewed for management approval.

Once the landlord or lessor is set up as a provider, short-term housing expenses should be paid as "room and board." Refer to 43.17.2 Paying in Advance for more information about paying room and board.

6.9 Tuition and Fee Exemption

6.9.1 Definition

The tuition and fee exemption includes exemption from all required fees and charges, except

6.9.2 Tuition Exemption

Consumers who are legally or totally blind and meet residency requirements for the college or university are exempt from paying tuition and fees for any state supported college or university in Texas. A student need not be a DBS consumer to receive a tuition and fee exemption. The specific criteria that must be met are noted in 6.9.4, Student Responsibilities.

6.9.3 DBS Responsibilities

DBS provides the consumer a letter (see 6.12 Exhibit A, Certificate of Blindness) certifying that he or she is legally or totally blind.

For the Student Who Is Not a DBS Consumer

If the student is not a DBS consumer, the student must present visual diagnostic information in person or by mail, confirming legal or total blindness.

Eye exams from an optometrist or an ophthalmologist or low-vision specialists are appropriate. DBS does not pay for a diagnostic exam for the sole purpose of obtaining this record. Do not use a medical consultant if medical records do not clearly document legal blindness.

Personal contact is preferable, so that the counselor can determine if the individual needs other DBS services. Travel is not authorized solely for certification for tuition exemption.

6.9.4 Student Responsibilities

It is the student's responsibility to

To meet the eligibility for tuition exemption as indicated in the Texas Education Code, section 54.205, the student must

6.9.5 Exceptions

If a DBS consumer is legally or totally blind but is not eligible for tuition exemption because he or she does not meet the state-supported school's residency requirements, DBS may pay for tuition and fees not to exceed the resident tuition rate for Texas residents.

6.9.6 Distribution of the Certification of Blindness

6.12 Exhibit A, Certificate of Blindness is the format to use when preparing a certification of blindness. It is recommended that it be printed on division letterhead and distributed as follows:

6.10 College and University Caseloads

A transition or other VR counselor transfers the case folder to a college VR counselor when both counselors agree to the transfer.

6.10.1 Full-Time College Caseloads

(Revised 04/08, 01/09, 03/11)

DBS full-time college caseloads are designated below.

Austin Area—Caseload 435:

Austin Area—Caseload 106:

Dallas Area—Caseload 420:

Houston Area—Caseload 207:

Lubbock Area—Caseload 159:

6.10.2 Responsibilities of the Transferring Counselor

(Revised 01/09, 10/10)

The responsibilities of the transferring counselor are outlined along with specific procedures in Chapter 40: Case Management, 40.4 Guidelines for Referral and Transfer of Cases.

Unless it would cause an unnecessary delay in services, the case folder must contain the following before transfer:

Significant effort should be made to transfer the case six weeks before the start of the new semester. Otherwise, the transferring counselor must issue service authorizations at the beginning of the semester for books, supplies, etc.

6.10.3 Responsibilities of the College Counselor

Once the case folder has been transferred, the college counselor must

6.10.4 Services after College

After the consumer or student graduates, the college counselor must provide employment assistance services.

If the consumer does not find employment after a reasonable time, the college counselor discusses the case with the VR coordinator and/or field director to determine if the consumer is actively looking for work or needs other services to become successfully employed.

Academic training beyond the first bachelor's degree requires FD approval.

6.11 Vocational and Technical Training

(Added 10/07)

6.11.1 Non-Degree Training

Non-degree training is provided at an approved public or private vocational and/or technical trade school and includes such occupations as

The student can earn a certificate of completion and, in some cases, a required state certification or license.

6.11.2 Degree Training

Degree training can include Texas State Technical College (TSTC) and other approved public or private vocational and/or technical trade schools authorized to grant associate degrees.

6.11.3 Training Provider Selection

When planning for consumer training, use only vocational and technical schools, including correspondence and Internet courses, that have

Any out-of-state school that provides training to a consumer must have appropriate licensing in that state.

Frequently the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the licensing entity (see TWC's Licensed Career Schools and Colleges Search Page).

TWC may allow exemptions from licensing under the Proprietary Schools Act. However, most of these exemptions do not apply to the training purchased by DBS. If a counselor has questions, he or she should contact Consumer Procurement Services.

For information regarding a particular school, or to have a school entered into the database of approved training providers, contact Consumer Procurement and Client Services Contracting (CPCSC).

6.11.4 Financial Aid for Vocational or Technical Training

Consumers entering a vocational or technical school must apply for all forms of financial aid, including Pell Grants, when available. See Chapter 4: Assessing and Planning, 4.4 Comparable Benefits and Services for information on comparable benefits.

6.11.5 Counselor Responsibilities

Obtain a copy of the school's catalog, if available.

6.11.6 DBS Tuition Payments for Private Vocational or Technical School

When acceptable to the school, hourly payment for tuition is the preferred basis for payment.

When purchasing vocational or technical training from proprietary schools, document in case notes the basis on which payment is made on an

For vocational or technical training schools that require a single advance payment, pay at the time of enrollment.

Use the "Contract Comments" section in ReHabWorks to obtain additional information regarding

Some vocational or technical schools are approved to provide specific health-related tests that are required before a trainee can enter training or complete certification (for example, X-rays and TB tests). The "Contract Comments" section contains information about purchasing such tests from the school.

Contact Consumer Purchasing for additional assistance regarding purchasing

6.11.7 Certificate of Completion

After a consumer completes training, obtain a copy of the certificate of completion (when available) and place it in the case file.

6.11.8 Withdrawals or Terminations

If a consumer withdrawals or is terminated from training before completing the course, pursue a refund according to the school's policy.

6.11.9 Comparable Benefits

When availability of comparable benefits is in question, encumber the full cost of training with the understanding that the cost will be reimbursed to DBS when comparable benefits are approved. (Note this circumstance on the service authorization).

6.11.10 Tools, Books, and Supplies

Purchase needed tools, books, consumable training supplies, uniforms, etc., from the school or other local providers.

6.11.11 Extended Training

If circumstances warrant additional time for the consumer to complete training, pay for an extension according to the school's policy.

6.12 Exhibit A, Certificate of Blindness

(Revised 10/07, 10/12)

The certificate of blindness should be printed on DARS letterhead and include the following statement:

This is to certify that ___________ is a person who is blind, as established in DBS policy, and is entitled to exemptions from the payment of tuition and fees (student service fees, building use fees, health center fees, lab fees, and property deposits not reimbursable to the consumer) at any institution of higher education utilizing public funds as specified in Education Code, Sec. 54.364.

Signature of Division Representative, Date