College programs serving students with intellectual disabilities face an uncertain future, according to The Hechinger Report.
Across the nation, 281 colleges offer transition programs for young people with cognitive disabilities, such as Down syndrome. But federal funding that has helped finance many of the programs expires next year, forcing colleges to search for other options.
Some of the programs — which provide tailored academic and occupational training — “are looking to nonprofits or foundations for support, while others are considering scaling back staffing or raising fees,” Cate Weir told The Hechinger Report.
Many students with disabilities can graduate from high school and go on to college, yet an investigation by The Hechinger Report reveals that a disproportionate number of young people on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) suffer from low expectations when it comes to postsecondary planning.
“Interviews with more than 100 parents, students, advocates, and experts across the country painted a picture of a special education landscape where transition planning and services are largely neglected,” reporters Sarah Butrymowicz and Jackie Mader wrote in an article published late last year. “Students with disabilities who could pursue higher education or meaningful employment are instead living at home and working low-wage jobs.”
Others are unemployed or pushed into professions that don’t match their interests.
Colleges must do more to provide and improve accommodations for students with disabilities, grad student Valerie Piro wrote in a recent essay published by Inside Higher Ed.
Piro, who uses a wheelchair and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, highlighted the challenges she faced when touring colleges as a high school student.
At one university, she had to use a makeshift wooden ramp to navigate a short flight of stairs. At another school, her prospective residence hall was located at the bottom of a steep hill and the college’s dorm rooms were much too small to accommodate her physical therapy equipment.
“Physical space and a well-functioning infrastructure on a campus cannot be overlooked, especially when one has a disability,” wrote Piro, who is paralyzed from the chest down. “What better way to tell a wheelchair user that they don’t belong at a college or university than by strewing the campus with stairs, broken help buttons, and pitiful excuses for ramps?”
A new process will make it easier for students to receive accommodations on College Board exams.
Starting Jan. 1, students who are approved for testing accommodations through an Individualized Education Program or 504 Plan will automatically be cleared to have those same accommodations on College Board tests, including the SAT and Advanced Placement exams.
Officials say the move will reduce approval time and help students receive the support they need to do their best on the tests.