Skip to Main Content

Bay Path University Awarded $1.25 Million from U.S. Department of Education to Fund Occupational Therapy Doctorate Education

Share This Story

One of 13 programs nationwide to receive federal funding to improve services and results for children with disabilities 

Longmeadow, Massachusetts—Bay Path University has been awarded $1,250,000 from the U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to help increase the number and diversity of occupational therapists serving school-aged children with disabilities and high-intensity needs.

Through the grant, titled Promoting OT Diversity: A Doctorate Program to Improve School-Based Practice, 32 scholars will obtain doctorate degrees in Bay Path’s post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program, while also earning Graduate Certificates in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

As part of the grant requirement, all scholars are required to work in a school-based setting for a minimum of four years upon completion of the program.

Last year, 42 states reported a shortage of OTs and other related providers, as the number of students with disabilities and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has risen dramatically. The Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network found that 1 in 36 children were diagnosed with ASD, and it cites, “substantial unmet needs in this population [due to the] continuing shortage of specific provider groups…and a pediatric workforce that is unevenly distributed throughout the United States.”

Over half (56%) of children with autism live in low-income households, and a larger percentage are children of color.

“The shortage of providers is further compounded by a dearth of specially trained, culturally and ethnically diverse, multilingual, and disabled OTs, who can have a significant influence on children’s academic achievement and social-emotional development,” states Dr. Julie Watson, PhD, OTR/L, the program director of Bay Path’s OTD and Doctor of Health Science programs. She is the project director for this initiative.

“Bay Path is well-positioned to meet this challenge. We have been educating occupational therapists for over twenty years, and our OTD is a fully online post-professional degree, designed for busy professionals. More than a third of our OT doctoral students identify as racially or ethnically diverse, and we are an emerging Hispanic-serving institution,” Dr. Watson explains. “Bay Path is a great resource for OTs and the schools they work in, as well as for children with high-intensity needs and their families. This will have a significant impact on the OT profession and children with disabilities.”


About Bay Path University

Bay Path University was founded in 1897. Bay Path’s enrolled population of over 3,000 includes traditional undergraduates; adult women at The American Women's College, the first all-women, all-online accredited degree program in the country; and women and men master’s and doctoral students. Bay Path’s goal is to give students confidence in the fundamentals of their chosen field, the curiosity to question the ordinary, the leadership to show initiative, and the desire to make a difference.