Intellectually disabled students gaining more opportunities in higher education

Madison Rexroat

Intellectually disabled students aren’t typically expected to go to college, but as more programs become available to these students, they prove to be widely successful.

Intellectually disabled students are those who have “significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior” according to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Their IQs typically range from the 40s to 70.

Just 263 of America’s 4,700+ higher education institutions offer programs for students with cognitive disabilities. 17 states have just one or two available programs for such students, and three states – Idaho, Oklahoma and West Virginia – don’t have any.

With more federal financial support from 2008’s passing of the Higher Education Opportunities Act (an expansion of Title IV funding), programs for intellectually disabled students are quickly expanding, and so is demand. At Clemson University, where completion of their ClemsonLIFE four-year program produces a 100 percent employment rate, the application acceptance rate is just 16 percent due to such high demand for only a few available spots.

The employment rate for intellectually disabled adults is 22.5 percent – 48.9 percent lower than adults without a disability. College programs that are built for the intellectually disabled focus on life skills and employment. Instead of a high GPA or a lengthy resume, the goal of the most successful programs is independence. 

To read the full article in The Atlantic, click here.