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Why College?

College is the natural transition from parent and teacher-driven coursework to independent, lifelong learning. Students with learning disabilities undergo the same life-changing experiences that other students have on campus: working through the transition from child to adult, from a dependent young person to an increasingly capable, independent young adult who contributes to their community. The focus on gaining independence, with on-campus supports in place, can translate to greater independence in one’s community and workplace.

While higher education institutions do not have the same systems to support students with learning, intellectual and developmental disabilities as K-12 education, that doesn’t mean a student can’t thrive with the right support. That’s why IHECP offers a number of services that can support their abilities and interests.

For more information on how college can impact a student with learning, intellectual and developmental disability's life, check out these statistics

  • Research indicates substantial gains in employment outcomes and trends over the FY 2011 through 2017. These findings mark a significant departure from typically low employment outcomes for students with ID.  
  • In 2011, the employment rate for transition-age individuals (ages 16–21) was 18%, which was less than half the employment rate for people without disabilities. This gap became worse as people with ID aged, with only 32% of adults ages 20–30 having employment, compared to 74% of their peers without disabilities in the same age group.

In college, all students learn how to self-manage the struggles that arise; it’s a critical phase in their transition to adulthood. College is a time where society (and parents) expect students to fail before they thrive. And when they’re on campus, students’ worlds are opened up to new ideas, people, and experiences.

College is a place where students learn to be independent in a safer, more controlled environment. It allows students the time they need to learn those skills — and to build independence.

Students with IEPs or 504 plans in public schools, in many cases, have been directed and guided by parents and teachers. But then they leave high school — and the rules have changed. Self-direction and self-sufficiency are expected, but they haven’t had the experience to draw upon. It’s a cultural shift. Thankfully, college gives them the buffer time they need to adapt to that change. It also gives them the experiences and skills they need to self-advocate.

Attending college is not the act of earning credits; it’s the process of learning to be a successful student and becoming a successful adult. We want our students to take credit for their actions and experiences.

At IHECP, we share the idea of the 3 P’s with our students: Be Present. Be Positive. Be Prepared. With the 3 P’s in mind, college becomes about more than just showing up. It becomes a way for students to explore their own interests, experience new things, and step into their skills.

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