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Vision Program Frequently Asked Questions

Is student financial aid available?

For more information about the grant funding that is currently available, contact Stacy Kelly at or 815-753-4103. For students studying at the graduate level for their master's degrees, we have very generous financial support, including

    • ALL tuition (in state or out-of-state)
    • ALL fees
    • FULL health insurance
    • A yearly stipend of $5,244 ($437/month).

In order to be eligible, students must be:

    • Fully admitted to the Northern Illinois University Graduate School
    • An American citizen
    • Willing to commit to work with children and/or adults who are blind or visually impaired anywhere in the U.S. for twice as long as they receive financial support
    • Willing to work as a half-time graduate assistant

Students in this program are obligated to pay for their books and supplies and living expenses, but they do not pay anything to Northern Illinois University. This is not a loan, but rather a graduate assistantship. The only stipulation is that if students do not fulfill their obligations to work with visually disabled children and/or adults for the amount of time required by the federal government (twice as long as they receive funding), then they are obligated to pay back to the federal government the amount of funds they received in this program. The funds emanate from federal grants H325K090232 and H129P090006.

For more information, contact:

Gaylen Kapperman

What does an Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instructor do?

O&M instructors teach individuals who are blind and visually impaired techniques for safe, independent travel, often using a white cane. They prepare their learners to travel in a variety of environments, from self-contained residential programs to fully independent travel in unfamiliar environments including urban areas.

What does a rehabilitation teacher (RT) do?

RTs teach individuals who are blind and visually impaired in techniques for safe, independent self-care, home management, adaptive kitchen skills, and communication skills (including braille). They teach life skills in people's homes as well as in center-based rehabilitation programs.

What does a teacher of children who are visually impaired (TVI) do?

TVIs instruct and provide support services to enable children who are blind and visually impaired to participate in the least restrictive environment (often mainstream classrooms) in which they are capable of learning. They work not only with children who are visually impaired and their families, but with school personnel, most often as an itinerant or resource room teacher.

Can I be certified in more than one area of specialization?

Yes, it is possible to be licensed to teach students with visual impairments or certified for O&M or RT in any or all of the above concentrations.

What are the job prospects in this field?

The prospects for now and the foreseeable future are excellent, particularly if graduates are willing to relocate. Research has shown that at the current rate of graduation of specialists in the field, we will not be able to keep up with the needs of visually impaired individuals. In fact, many of our graduates are recruited by the personnel at the sites where they do student teaching or complete their internship.

How high must my GPA be?

Because you must satisfy the eligibility requirements of NIU's Graduate School and our department before you can be admitted to our program, this is something which is not within our power to change. The current Graduate School requirement is a minimum GPA of 2.8 on a 4-point scale. The Department of Special and Early Education has a minimum requirement of 3.0 on the a 4-point scale.

What happens if I am accepted to the program?

Upon acceptance, M.S.Ed. students will be assigned to a staff advisor, and Ed.D students will be assigned a faculty advisor. They will be notified of who their advisor is in a letter from the CAHE Department. Students should reach out to their advisor before they enroll in classes as a degree-seeking student in the program. The advisor will provide you with important information about course requirements and planning. They will also discuss creating your Program of Study, which is required in order for students to graduate.

What are the application deadlines? School year dates?

Most students begin their coursework in the fall semester, but under certain circumstances students may be encouraged to begin in the summer session. Deadlines for receipt of all application materials can be found at the undergraduate admission or graduate admisson webpage.


Leslie Hecht
Academic Advisor
(815) 753-0381


William Penrod

Stacy Kelly

Gaylen Kapperman (Emeritus)