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Post-secondary Education

The Education Reform Act of 1993 seeks to give all students the tools and skills to become a productive individual, worker, and citizen throughout life and to recognize the importance of education as a lifelong effort. Transition Planning is one vehicle to help students identify ways to realize their vision for the future. Transition Planning builds alliances among schools, parents, students, human services, and community members to develop a comprehensive approach to transtioning from school to adult life.

Some students have transitional plans that include post-secondary or continuing education outcomes. The discussion here will focus exclusively on post-secondary education, but other organizations also offer continuing education opportunities both for credit and for fun. Conferences, workshops, meetings, cultural centers (e.g., museums), and adult education centers all fall under the heading of further education and may assist an individual in achieving his/her goals.

Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many colleges and universities have developed programs, supports, and/or special services for students with disabilities. The services offered vary from school to school. Some colleges aggressively recruit individuals with disabilities or with specific kinds of disabilities. Others are not as progressive about making accommodations. Generally speaking, supports for students with cognitive disabilities are more difficult to find. In any case, students must be able to advocate for the accommodations they need and to inform their administrators and/or individual instructors. Therefore, it is imperative that students learn what their rights and responsibilities are under the different laws (e.g., ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) before they leave school.

The following is adapted from A Guide to Higher Education for Learning Disabled Students by John P. Branson (see Appendix I under Post-Secondary Education).

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that otherwise qualified students with disabilities are assured access to higher education. The act states, "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall solely, by reason of his [her] handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." The implications for students with disabilities are far-reaching. Since most colleges and universities accept some form of federal financial aid, few institutions of higher education are exempt from this mandate. The ADA expands on this law by saying that any place accessible to the general public must also be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Only religious-based colleges and universities that do not receive federal funding are exempt.

Examples of Academic Accommodations

General accommodations include American Sign Language Interpreters, the use of tape recorders, readers or writers, and modifications in the length of time for the completion of requirements. Following are other brief examples of accommodations that may be requested in the academic environment. Other accommodations are discussed in more detail in "Accommodations and Assistive Technology" on page 141.

(Adapted from Unlocking the Doors, Learning Disabilities Association, 2104 Park Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404)

Difficulty reading

Difficulty with lectures Difficulty taking exams Difficulty studying Difficulty with writing

Colleges and universities may not On the other hand, colleges or universities must make accommodations to ensure that students with disabilities are not subjected to discrimination. This does not mean that standards fundamental to the program must be altered (e.g., an individual may still need to meet all course requirements for a specific degree). Modifications may include extension of time to complete a degree, substitution of courses, adaptation of instructional methods and materials, assistive technology, and other accommodations.

The following is adapted from books by Branson, Heath Resource Center. Please refer to Appendix I under Post-Secondary Education for full bibliographic information.

Tips for Students Getting Ready for College
Start Early
Preparing for college really begins prior to starting high school, since the courses you select in high school can assist you in gaining admission to and being successful in college. Choose courses that provide a broad academic experience. Most post-secondary programs require basic knowledge of English, mathematics, and science.
Take as many of these courses as possible. You also need to be persistent in completing assignments and in solving problems. Make sure to take high school vocational courses related to your career interests as well, especially if you are considering a technical or community college.

Develop a personal file
Gathering information pertinent to college while in high school can be a great help in both the admissions process and while you are enrolled in post-secondary education. The information in the file may be used to verify a disability (most post-secondary schools require verification of a disability before providing accommodations). The information in a personal file may include:

Understand Your Disability

Although many post-secondary institutions offer services and provide accommodations for students with disabilities, they are legally obligated to do so only if the accommodation is requested and documented. Therefore, it is helpful for you to understand your disability as it relates to post-secondary goals and activities. As a student, you should know which academic tasks are difficult and then be able to ask for assistance.

Suggestions for going to college

If you are interested in a smaller college, don't be discouraged if it's not accessible. Because these colleges are smaller, individuals are often more personable and are willing to and interested in making accommodations. (Don't underestimate the power of "people contact.")

Request specific information regarding services for students with disabilities.

If possible, live in a dorm for at least the first year. You'll meet a lot of new people who you might not otherwise get to know.

Attend freshman orientation. It will give you a head start on getting around, making new friends, and identifying potential problems.

If you need accommodations for any of your classes, let the people at services for students with disabilities and the instructor know as soon as possible.

If you need assistance with assignments, reading, or other coursework that others in your class are also required to complete, team up with classmates. They'll get their work done while assisting you.

Don't be discouraged if friendships come slowly. Sometimes older, more mature students are the best initial contacts.

Remember to take a break from studyingenjoy your social life!

Financial Aid

Most financial aid awards are based on the needs of the student and his/her family. Others are given for outstanding performance in a certain subject area (e.g., science, some sports), and a small fraction are given to individuals of minority groups, based on merit rather than need. Students can apply for various state and federal loans as well as for regular student loans from local banks. The high school guidance office is a good place to begin looking. Most institutions of higher education have financial aid offices that can provide additional resources.

A college or university determines your eligibility for financial aid after you complete the required Financial Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There is no fee to file this form. Additionally, an individual college/university may have their own financial aid form(s) and/or they may ask you to fill out the Financial Aid Form (FAF). There is a fee to file a FAF. Check with the individual institution.

Please note:

Finding the scholarship or financial aid package that best suits your needs can be a daunting process. There are thousands of books that print hundreds of thousands of awards ranging from one hundred to thousands of dollars. Don't get discouraged. Do ask for assistance on where to start.

Common aid/loan programs available through colleges and universities:

PELL grant -- a federal grant program with eligibility determined by submitting the FAFSA and granted at the discretion of the college/university

Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) -- a federally funded program granted at the discretion of the college

MA state scholarships -- state money granted according to specific income guidelines

Stafford Loan Program -- available through an application from a bank with approval from the college/university

Institutional funds -- need-based awards granted through the specific colleges/universities

Perkins Loan -- a federally funded loan program granted at the discretion of institution

College Work/Study -- federal money granted to eligible students, where the student works on campus to supplement expenses/tuition


The Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is a national organization that provides information about services for students with disabilities at over 1,900 institutions of higher learning. In addition, they publish a manual entitled "How to Choose a College," for students with disabilities and their families. For information about educational institutions committed to assisting qualified students with disabilities, contact AHEAD, PO Box 21192, Columbus, OH 43221. (614) 488-4972.

The HEATH Resource Center operates the national clearinghouse on post-secondary education for individuals with disabilities. HEATH is supported by the United States Department of Education and is sponsored by the American Council on Education. It collects and provides information about educational support services, policies, procedures, adaptations, and opportunities for people with disabilities that can be found on American campuses, vocational-technical schools, adult education programs, independent living centers, and other post-secondary training institutions. Be sure to request their newsletter. Contact HEATH Resource Center, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20036-1193. (202) 939-9320 or (800) 544-3284, voice and TTY.

The Higher Education Center at the Boston Public Library provides information about careers, the type of education needed for a specific career, where to get that education, and how to pay for it. They also have college catalogs and applications and can assist in filling out applications or financial aid forms such as FAFSA and FAF, which are available there. They also have volumes of information about scholarships for students to look through and counselors are on-site. For assistance, contact the Higher Education Center, Boston Public Library, 666 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. (617) 536-0200.

A listing of the community and state colleges in Massachusetts can be found in Appendix I: Resource Guide.

Have you thought about City Year?

City Year is a national youth service organization that enlists people, ages 17 to 23 for a year of full-time community service, leadership development, and civic engagement. City Year corps members work four days a week in teams of 10 to 12 to serve as teachers' aides in public schools, renovate housing for the homeless, turn vacant lots into community gardens, operate recrational programs for senior citizens, and run after-school programs. One day a week is dedicated to education, reflection, and leadership training. City Year's educational program includes learning opportunities such as required GED classes for corps members who have not graduated from high school, college and career counseling, and overnight training retreats. Corps members receive a weekly stipend and upon graduating are eligible for post-service awards for college tuition, job training, or other life-changing opportunities. For more information call the Admissions Department at (617) 350-0737.

Have You Thought About This?  

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