Spalding receives $1.28 million federal grant to fund scholarships for social work master’s students from disadvantaged backgrounds

Steve Jones

The Spalding University School of Social Work has been awarded a federal grant totaling more than $1.28 million over five years to provide scholarships to disadvantaged students in its Master of Social Work (MSW) program, with a focus on students who aspire to provide behavioral health care in primary care settings or in medically underserved communities. A clinical priority of the grant will be combating the opioid crisis.

The new grant continues funding that Spalding has received since 2012 from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Program.

Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, the HRSA grant will fund scholarships that cover approximately half-tuition for a projected 117 Spalding MSW students over five years, supporting the University’s efforts to recruit and retain an increasing number of future health professionals who come from disadvantaged backgrounds or who identify as underrepresented minorities.

In particular, the scholarships will help support master’s students seeking careers that address Kentucky’s shortage of mental health and opioid use disorder service providers. The School of Social Work plans to increase academic content in its master’s program related to opioid use and expand practicum placements that focus on substance use treatment.

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HRSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded Spalding $229,950 for the 2020-21 academic year, while recommending that the funding increases in future years to $251,850 in 2021-22, $262,800 in both ’22-23 and ’23-24, and $273,750 in ’24-25.

“The award of over a million dollars through the HRSA grant allows us to offer significant support to our MSW students and reflects both the caliber of the program and our ongoing commitment to prepare our graduates to practice in underserved communities,” School of Social Work Chair Dr. Shannon Cambron said. “We are dedicated to ensuring access to an exemplary educational experience that ultimately leads to exemplary social workers. This award and the scholarships it funds help us open the door wide to individuals committed to changing the world.”

Cambron said Associate Professor Dr. Kevin Borders, a former School of Social Work Chair, will direct Spalding’s handling of the grant funds, and she thanked him for his leadership.

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The program outcomes and student diversity of the Spalding School of Social Work align with HRSA’s Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Program.

From 2016-19, 67.3 percent of full-time students enrolled in Spalding’s MSW program were from disadvantaged backgrounds, and 45.6 percent of full-time students identified as underrepresented minorities. Additionally, 25.3 percent of graduates from those years are now practicing in primary care, and 34.6 percent are now practicing in medically underserved communities.

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Informational Notice: This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,281,150 with 13 percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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