Governor Hochul Announces $32 Million to Grow Workforce to Support New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities

March 20, 2024

From the office of Governor Hochul

Investment Enables SUNY and OPWDD to Expand Direct Support Professional Microcredential Programs at Additional Campuses Through 2030

Program Expansion Will Help Educate 6,000 Students and Grow the Direct Support Professional Workforce to Support New Yorkers With Developmental Disabilities

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a $32 million investment to expand the Direct Support Professional microcredential program offered by the State University of New York (SUNY) in partnership with the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The funding will allow SUNY to expand the program on campuses where it already exists and add programs at additional campuses to help grow the Direct Support Professional workforce in New York State and support New Yorkers with developmental disabilities. SUNY anticipates supporting up to 6,000 students by 2030 through this expansion.

"Every day, direct support professionals help New Yorkers with developmental disabilities thrive in their day-to-day lives," Governor Hochul said. "Through this $32 million expansion, we are helping to grow this crucial field and ensure students have the training they need to pursue this vital career path and care for their fellow New Yorkers."

In February 2023, Governor Hochul announced OPWDD awarded SUNY $5 million to upskill, through microcredentials, the current Direct Support Professional (DSP) workforce, enabling direct support professionals to secure national certification and college credit toward a certificate, associate or bachelor's degree. Early this year, New York State invested an additional $20 million in the program.

Today’s announcement was made at Dutchess Community College (DCC), where SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. and OPWDD Commissioner Kerri E. Neifeld joined President Peter Grant Jordan and the DCC community for a recognition ceremony of the college’s first DSP cohort. The new microcredential was completed by 15 students during the Fall 2023 semester. As of Spring 2024, DCC has 173 students participating in the program.

SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said, "Microcredentials provide a path for New Yorkers to boost their skills and increase upward mobility. The demand for the Direct Support Professionals microcredential program was vast, far exceeding expectations, which shows there are many people willing to learn to provide compassionate care for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. I’m proud to expand this program to additional SUNY colleges thanks to the amazing partnership between SUNY and OPWDD. Together, we can support the individuals who continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those with developmental disabilities."

OPWDD Commissioner Kerri E. Neifeld said, "OPWDD is thrilled with the success of the SUNY DSP Microcredential Program and with the participation that continues to expand statewide. The program is an opportunity for professional growth and a deeper understanding of the field of direct support. With the addition of six new campuses, SUNY is helping to increase the pipeline for this incredibly important profession that changes lives for people with developmental disabilities. I thank Chancellor King for championing this effort and we look forward to our continued partnership."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "All New Yorkers deserve access to educational opportunities, and thanks to the American Rescue Plan I led to passage, we are investing in our top-notch SUNY schools while supporting thousands of residents with developmental disabilities so they can obtain a certificate or higher education degree. With this $32 million, we are giving students across every corner of our state the skills they need to enter the workforce, increasing access to good-paying jobs and the talent pool for our local businesses. I am proud to deliver this funding to bolster our workforce and thank Governor Hochul for being a strong partner in supporting workforce development across New York State."

Representative Adriano Espaillat said, "All students deserve the opportunity to achieve, and I commend Governor Hochul on this latest announcement ensuring educational support, resources, and opportunities for New York students and their families. This federal funding was made possible by the American Rescue Plan and will continue to benefit New York students, creating a brighter future today for their academic achievements and professional development for many years to come."

State Senator John W. Mannion said, "This $32 million commitment by the state creates much-needed pathways for New Yorkers to pursue a career as a DSP while ensuring those with developmental disabilities receive high-quality care. I commend Governor Hochul's leadership on issues impacting our family, friends, and neighbors with I/DD, and I applaud SUNY and OPWDD for their collaborative efforts to address this critical need."

Assemblymember Rebecca A. Seawright said, "We commend Governor Hochul for this momentous investment in SUNY’s Direct Support Professional microcredential program. Given New York’s I/DD workforce shortage, we must expand the service pool starting at the college level. These students will secure statewide disability assistance for years to come."

Dutchess Community College President Peter Grant Jordan said, "This partnership with the New York State OPWDD and SUNY has been instrumental for us in building a truly innovative and successful program, which epitomizes the purpose of community college. It has helped us to build a robust curriculum and offer additional wrap-around supports, allowing more than 190 students who’ve participated in the program thus far to prioritize their education, while continuing to care for some of our most vulnerable citizens. We are proud to serve our community by offering this Direct Support Professional program and the accompanying certifications, and we look forward to its continued growth and impact within the Hudson Valley region."

The first class began at Niagara County Community College followed by SUNY Corning, Dutchess Community College, Empire State University, Finger Lakes Community College, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Jefferson Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, SUNY Morrisville, Onondaga Community College, SUNY Schenectady and Tompkins Cortland Community College.

As the program continues to expand, six new campuses were announced today to begin offering the Direct Support Professional microcredentials, including:

  • SUNY Canton
  • Farmingdale State College
  • Jamestown Community College
  • North Country Community College
  • SUNY Oneonta
  • Orange County Community College

SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran said, "SUNY Canton is excited to be a partner in SUNY’s expanding partnership with OPWDD. By developing and offering microcredentials and other stackable credentials designed to expand employment opportunities for the developmental disability community, we enhance skills, unlock opportunities, and address workforce needs in our area. Participating students will thrive in this program and be well-suited for an expanded range of meaningful jobs. SUNY Canton’s participation helps us exemplify our campus motto of ‘Everyone is Welcome Here."

Farmingdale State College Senior Vice President and Provost Laura Joseph said, "Farmingdale State College is delighted to be a part of this partnership with New York State OPWDD and SUNY. The funding has allowed us to develop the curriculum for the Direct Support Professional I and II credential as well as the wrap-around support needed to help students complete the course of study. Students enrolled in the DSP I and II microcredentials are frontline workers and serve as the backbone of the Human Services industry. These microcredentials empower these professionals and further legitimize the profession. Dr. Michael Figuccio, Chair of the Psychology Department, has been instrumental in launching this program with over 30 students in the first cohort."

Jamestown Community College President Daniel DeMarte said, "As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of education and workforce development, Jamestown Community College is proud to join this expanded partnership between SUNY and OPWDD. Our commitment to providing accessible and innovative programs aligns perfectly with the Direct Support Professional microcredential initiative, which not only enhances the skills of our students but also addresses the critical need for compassionate care for individuals with developmental disabilities. This investment will not only empower our students but will also make a tangible difference in the lives of those we serve. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important endeavor."

North Country Community College President Joe Keegan said, "North Country is proud to be a part of this much needed microcredential program, which we launched this semester. It will help answer a growing demand in our region and the state for trained professionals to serve people with developmental disabilities and help them grow and strengthen their life skills. We are thankful to SUNY and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities for this partnership, and we are excited to see its expansion to more institutions across the state."

SUNY Oneonta Dean of the School of Education, Human Ecology, and Sports Studies Mark Davies said, "SUNY Oneonta is proud to participate in this special partnership with the Office for People with Development Disabilities to offer the Direct Support Professional microcredential program across Otsego County and our broader region. Our strong ties with organizations that advocate for people with disabilities will help us successfully build the skills of our local workforce and improve the daily lives of our neighbors in need of support."

SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young said, "New Yorkers with developmental disabilities are struggling to access quality care in part because our statewide workforce is lacking credentialed direct support professionals to serve them. Governor Hochul has identified a plan to address that shortage and SUNY, as a system, is stepping forward in partnership with the Governor and the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. SUNY Orange is eager to join our colleagues across SUNY who have already begun this critical work."

Supported through federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, this microcredential program is aimed at helping to upskill and retain individuals already working in the profession and to encourage new professionals to enter the field. Each microcredential program was designed to support national certification from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) and award academic credit that can be applied toward meeting degree requirements in human services, psychology, sociology, addiction studies and more at the certificate, associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels. Successful completion of up to four microcredentials in the series will result in a SUNY microcredential and up to four national certifications: DSP I, II, III and Front-Line Supervisor.

The program provides a $750 stipend to eligible students who successfully complete each microcredential and certification in the series. In addition, grant funding will cover tuition, books, course materials, NADSP credentialing for students, and educational support.

About OPWDD

The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) provides high-quality person-centered supports and services to people with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders and other neurological impairments. OPWDD provides services directly and through a network of over 400 not-for-profit service providers. OPWDD’s mission is to help people with developmental disabilities live richer lives that include meaningful relationships, good health, personal growth, and a home within their community. For more information, visit www.opwdd.ny.gov or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit suny.edu.


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