Opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to pursue college education are expanding, thanks to Inclusive Postsecondary Education (IPSE) programs implemented at colleges and technical schools throughout the United States. Here are key insights into these programs.
Inclusive postsecondary education encompasses programs at colleges and technical institutions designed to offer career and transitional training for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This transitional training aids in the transition to adulthood, providing essential life skills such as managing a bank account, performing household tasks, and cooking.
Nationwide Presence and Growth:
Presently, only about 2% of the approximately 420,000 eligible children with intellectual disabilities attend an IPSE program after high school. However, the number of these programs in U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled since 2009, increasing from 148 to 328. Nearly every state, except Wyoming, hosts at least one IPSE program, with states like California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts having multiple programs.
Historically, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities faced unequal access to primary and secondary education until the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975. Since then, the U.S. education system has evolved from excluding 1.8 million children with disabilities to providing education to over 7.5 million by 2021.
Role of Inclusive Postsecondary Education Programs:
Inclusive postsecondary education programs focus on academic access, career development, campus involvement, and fostering self-determination. They often employ person-centered planning, allowing students to shape their educational journey. While these programs do not lead to a college degree, they provide certificates recognized by state authorities.
Example Program – Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth:
At Kennesaw State University, the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth offers a comprehensive IPSE program. It spans two phases: the Academic, Social, and Career Enrichment Program (years one and two) and the Advanced Leadership and Career Development Program (years three and four). Students earn certificates recognized by the Georgia Board of Regents after completing required courses, internships, and social interaction hours.
Admission Criteria and Benefits:
Eligibility for IPSE programs varies, with requirements such as a minimum reading level and a desire to complete program requirements. Noteworthy benefits include the development of friend groups, increased independence, and high rates of on-campus residence. Research by Think College indicates a 65% employment rate within a year for program completers, contrasting with the 17% national employment rate for adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities.
Challenges and Ongoing Research:
While anecdotal evidence highlights success, evaluating the overall success of IPSE programs remains challenging due to their complexity and diversity. Families interested in IPSE programs can explore the Think College website and contact state disability and vocational rehabilitation agencies for further information.