Empowering Students: The Growing Landscape of Inclusive Higher Education
The potential is real for students with intellectual disabilities to go to college and pursue true employment. We are excited to highlight postsecondary education options that are available to them right now.
Now there is a new resource to share! Think College recently produced a short video that is designed to help raise awareness of postsecondary education options for students with ID. There are several accompanying resources, too! The video and all resources are available for free for anyone to download at www.thinkhighered.net.
We encourage everyone to show and share the video and resources to help us spread the word about postsecondary options. Show the short 4 minute video at your next IEP meeting when you want to ensure that college is being considered as an option for your son or daughter! Very often, it is parents that are making educators know that college is an option, and we are happy to provide you with some tools to help you raise awareness of this important option for students with intellectual disability.
This field, while relatively new in the big picture of education for students with disabilities, is growing and developing at a great rate. In 2008, when Think College did an initial survey, we found around 170 colleges that reported serving students with ID in any capacity, but most did not have a formal program, and none offered access to financial aid. Now, there are 323 college programs, and 153 of those are approved to offer access to federal student aid. AND, new programs are added to the directory all the time.
More Career-Technical program options
An exciting newer development in inclusive higher education is the development of Career and Technical Education (CTE) options that support students with intellectual disability.
Postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) is a broad term that encompasses academics, technical skills, and on the job training to prepare students to enter the workforce upon completion of a program. In postsecondary education, there are a variety of CTE programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials, postsecondary certificates, and two-year degrees offered through community and technical colleges and other postsecondary institutions.
Florida is currently leading the way in making these valuable CTE programs available to students with ID. In the Think College Search directory of college programs for students with ID, there are now 12 technical colleges listed, and 9 of them are in Florida! The great thing to know is that through a partnership with Think College, the folks at the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities can provide information and technical assistance to other technical colleges around the country on how to create the appropriate supports and processes to make their programs accessible to students with ID as well. Let us know if we can help support a career/technical college in your area!
These success stories from graduates of career technical programs illustrate how these programs can lead to successful careers.
Learn more about the programs available at career/ technical colleges.
More residential programs
We are happy to see that there are more programs offering residential services as part of their comprehensive program. Living on campus with peers is one way that young people learn to be more independent. This is the same for students with ID – living away from home in a dorm or campus apartment offers opportunities to practice and learn skills that can be hard to replicate at home with mom and dad. There are now 127 college programs that offer housing.
More state level funding
Ten states are now supporting the development of new college programs by offering start-up funding to colleges and universities. In addition to the federal support these programs have had since 201, this is an exciting development!
The field is not only growing in the number of options available, but we are also developing program standards to better provide equity of experiences across programs and a way to determine what types of education, services and support programs are providing. A new nonprofit agency, the Inclusive Higher Education Accreditation Council, has been established as of March 2023. It accredited its first program in that same month. Western Carolina University’s University Participant (UP) program was fully accredited, becoming the first in the nation to gain that designation.
This is an important new step forward for inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE). Accreditation is the process by which all college and university programs and institutions are reviewed for acceptable levels of quality and adherence to standards-based practices. For students, this means that when programs can say they are meeting accreditation standards, they know what practices, policies and supports they can expect from that program. This new development will continue to support the standardization of practices across college programs.
To learn more about what we mean by accreditation standards for programs supporting students with ID, review this document that introduces the standards programs are being asked to meet in order to become accredited.
For more information about the new accrediting agency, visit IHEACouncil.org.
Growing number of scholarships
Paying for college is an issue for most students and their families. At Think College, we try to help with this issue by publishing resources that share information about the various ways that students can seek funds to pay for college. These are all located on our resource page “Paying for College”. Check out our Annual Guide to Scholarships for information on several scholarship programs that are available to students in non-degree programs.
Transition to College resources
At Think College, we know that preparing for college is a hot topic for families. We all want to set our kids up for success as they head off for postsecondary education! To support you in that goal, we share several resources on our website. A great source for information and resources on how to support your daughter or son to get ready for college is our Preparing for College resource page. One favorite resource from that page is the chart of dozens of IEP goals that can be included in that annual plan that build specific skills for college.
We also share resources that were developed specifically for families on our website, in both English and Spanish.
No matter what you chose whether it is a college program, a technical program or employment opportunities, know that the future is now full of opportunities! Ones never thought of before. And ones that best fits the needs of each young adult.
Think College is here for you! We love to talk
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2023 Magazine