Service Obligation

U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) - Office of Special Education Programs


 According to section 662(h) of the federal law IDEA (see 34 CFR part 304), graduate students who receive scholarship assistance (e.g., tuition, stipend) from projects funded under IDEA are required to complete a service obligation, including early intervention and special education. They must agree to work, after graduation, for a specified amount of time in the field of study for which they were supported.  If a student drops out of the Project Prepare graduate degree program at any time prior to completion of degree requirements, or secures other employment that is not related to early childhood or special education, before they have completed the specified amount of time required, they must pay back to USDOE the funds they received while enrolled in Project Prepare.

 If you are accepted into Project Prepare, you must sign a Pre-Scholarship Agreement verifying your knowledge of, and agreement to, the terms and conditions of this requirement. Prior to your final acceptance, Project Prepare staff will meet with you via conference call to ensure that you fully understand the Service Obligation requirements.

The following information outlines the key aspects of the Service Obligation requirement. Please visit the USDOE website for a full list of FAQs and information on the service obligation requirement:

How long do you have to work in early childhood education special education after you have graduated from the grant program of study?

  • For each academic year or equivalent that you receive scholarship assistance, you must maintain the equivalent of full-time employment in special education for 2 years.  You can work part-time during your service obligation period. 
  • At least 51% of the children receiving your services must receive services under IDEA (early intervention or special education). 

How much time do you have to complete the service obligation requirement?

  • The period of time is equal to the number of years of your service obligation years with an additional five-year grace period.  For example, a 3 year service obligation plus 5 yrs grace time = 8 years. If you work part-time, the same total period of time applies.

How will you know how much USDOE scholarship assistance you received during your participation in Project Prepare?

  • When you complete the Project Prepare program of study, UT will provide you with an ‘Exit Certification’, which will specify the total amount of tuition and stipend monies you have received. The Exit Certification will also include the period of time of your service obligation, and the amount of time you have, from graduation, to complete the requirement. You must sign an agreement that verifies this amount, and provide updated contact information where you can be reached by the USDOE.

How does the USDOE keep track of the funds you received and the length of your employment?

  • When you are accepted into Project Prepare, UT (via Project Prepare staff) will enter your name and contact information into a database maintained by the Personnel Development Program Data Collection System (PDP DCS) under contract with the USDOE.  UT staff will update the amount of funding you have received, your current graduate student status (e.g., ‘continuing student’), and provide the USDOE with contact information, during each year you are enrolled in Project Prepare. When you have completed the requirements for PSNE endorsement and GCTEC graduate certificate, the PDP DCS will contact you with instructions on how to proceed to track your service obligation requirement. 
Last Updated: 6/27/22