Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Bending the Arc of Disability History Toward Rights, Freedom, Social Justice, and Belonging

Presented by Allan Bergman

Section 7. Integration and Postsecondary Education

Allan Bergman describes postsecondary education as an option for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This Section is based on the research and training efforts of Think College, a federally funded training and technical assistance center. In 1998, there was no legislative support for inclusive higher education; in 2021, in comparison, there were 309 programs. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who completed a college program were more likely to be employed. The many keys to success affect a broad range of life activities, including future-focused planning; high expectations; dignity of risk; voice and choice by the student; inclusive K-12 education; getting a job; using natural supports; and sharing success stories with others.

And as we continue on this journey, we've spent some time talking about community integration and we've talked about competitive integrated employment.

But another part of the IDEA outcomes for transition is post-secondary education. And thanks to again, federal funding at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, project headed up by Cate Weir is the National Coordinating Center for Think College.

And it was started in 2010 about improving post-secondary outcomes.

And they have really done some marvelous work because 1998, there were a few post-secondary programs but basically no research, no data. They were initiatives started very often by a local college or a community college with good intentions. No ill will at all. But today with federal funding, we now have over 300 higher ed programs.

There are accreditation standards. There's 60 million bucks in federal funds and 100 in fed, 20 federally funded demo sites. And the focus is what a surprise not on compliance, but on outcomes. And the research base continues to grow, thanks to this wonderful work that got started by the Higher Ed Act in 2008.

So, we're coming up on 14 years and we've got a little bit of experience but we've got a long way to go. And it created the transition program, federal money, all the things that you want that a University can help do to try to get some degree of consistency across the country so that when we say inclusive post-secondary education, we're all talking the same language.

And as you will see in a little bit, that's still a bit of a problem.

So, here's the map as of April, 2021.

Thank you Think College and Cate Weir for these slides to see the distribution across the country of over 130 transition post-secondary programs. Not a bad number.

And you can see, it is certainly not equally distributed. Some states still have only one, and even a big state like California only has five. So, we've got still a lot of work to do to broaden this initiative and get more of it out there. And this is just some more of the distribution and we can keep going.

And here's some of the important stuff. Look what's happened in the cohort numbers of the number of grantees and the number of students. Again, 2020 to 25 just got started. So, that number will go up. But over 2000 in the first cohort, another 2000 in the second and these are students who are in programs that are being tracked.

There are probably others that haven't enrolled, they're not being tracked. But it's a good start to see what we get.

And then, here is the important stuff.

Look at the number of students who got paid jobs while still in college. What a novel idea happened to most of the rest of us. Why not to students with disabilities, the course enrollments. And then the next number is the one that's problematic.

Less than half of the course enrollments are inclusive.

So what we have, and we'll get into this in a few more minutes, is that some of these post-secondary programs are still segregated. It is the special program for the intellectual disability kids. And in some schools, they still have even a separate dormitory or a separate apartment house.

That is not inclusion.

And that is why the standards are gonna continue to be raised and move this thing forward.

So we've still got a lot of work to do, but you can see here that we're making progress on the employment front.

If you'll remember earlier, about 22% of kids graduating high school with intellectual and developmental disabilities, three years afterwards are employed, here, we're at 67%. That's a 300% increase.

Any statistician will tell you that's pretty significant change for doing this. And so, here's the latest map on college options as opposed to just per secondary. And you can see there California has come up quite a bit and we're at 310 as of a little over a year ago. So, there is growth in this movement and that's good.

And these are the different categories that Think College and the University have established to track what these are. And you can see from the slide that there are three different categories and how they work with school districts or how they don't and how they are moving toward real outcomes, making a difference in kids' lives as they go to post-secondary education, including even doing some of that as part of an IEP while kids are in transition. And that is perfectly legal.

There are policy guidance from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative services on how that can be done so that the school district has some insight into what's happening in the Community Colleges or some of the post-secondary college programs.

There are different admissions processes and requirements. You don't have to be seeking a degree. They vary from one to four years. And as I said earlier, the amount of inclusion varies.

Students do get a certificate and some can get actual federal aid, not alone. So, they're not in debt when they come out. They actually get aid.

So, this is a very powerful quote.

"It would be a travesty if this initiative, this terrific opportunity becomes another separate, segregated special program where young adults are treated as subjects and beneficiaries instead of affording them the respect they deserve as self-determined college students."

And that's from Sharon Lewis when she was the Associate Commissioner at the Administration for Community Living at the federal level.

A Partners in Policymaking graduate from Oregon, now back in Oregon, and a mom but she understands this well cuz she's had this experience with her own child of struggling to get college inclusion.

So, we need to be clear that post-secondary education must be inclusive for all students. And bottom line from the research, guess what? Family and parents are key to this success. Future-focused, high-expectations.

How many times have we talked about that?

And Congress even putting it in the law for IDEA. We must raise expectations and have them the same as we do for everybody else.

We may not get there, but if we lower the bar and we keep lowering it then we never even create the equal opportunity. We must do that. Let your child take chances and make mistakes.

We've talked about the dignity of risk, not big mistakes. So, you take a course and you don't do so well in it. I don't know anybody who didn't get straight A's in college.

Ha ha. Okay?

We all took classes we thought we could do well and we were thrilled if we got a C and passed as opposed to a D or an F. It's okay for that to happen to a student with a disability. It's not a crime to make a mistake, to try something and figure out, okay? I'm not good at this. Okay? it's fine.

Allow choice. Let people experiment. Let them try. Put their toe in the water. And inclusion is essential for building relationships and networks. That's how all of us thrive in the community is our networks, our relationships, our affinity groups, our friendships, all based on different categories. Not saying you can't have friends with disabilities but that shouldn't be your only category of friendships.

You can have people that you like to go to ball games, with people that you play cards with, people that you knit with, people that you go bowling with. Go down the list of all the things we do and when it's right, get a job and a real job for real pay with career advancement and take advantage of natural supports. You don't need a paid somebody to help you with everything.

We all have colleagues and friends and coworkers and bosses who support us. They want us to be successful. That will happen for students with disabilities as well. And then we must share the success stories, get 'em out there and start blowing away the myths, the stereotypes, and the stigma. It can work and it does.

I'm not gonna go through this but you may study this at your own will. This is a whole set of strategies that Cate and the staff at Think College have created to really help families be prepared.

And then this is their website and where you can get additional information. And I know, we are gonna see nothing more but continued growth in post-secondary education starting as part of transition in the IEP process.

©2024 The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Administration Building   50 Sherburne Avenue   Room G10
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155
Phone: 651-296-4018   Toll-free number: 877-348-0505   MN Relay Service: 800-627-3529 OR 711
Email:    View Privacy Policy    An Equal Opportunity Employer 

The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 2301MNSCDD-02, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

This website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,120,136.00 with 83 percent funded by ACL/HHS and $222,000.00 and 17 percent funded by non-federal-government source(s). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.