February 21st, 2012

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College Program Funding for Students With Disabilities in Doubt

College life

Katy Hopkins of the U.S. News and World Report wrote last week that President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal did not include funding for the Transition and Postsecondary Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant, raising questions about the future of this experimental program at its midway point.

Since the 2010 fiscal year, TPSID grants have provided 27 colleges and universities with funding to implement programs that bring people with disabilities into classrooms, dorm rooms, clubs, and other parts of a college student’s typical experience. It was expected that more than 6,000 students would benefit from the program over a five-year period, at the end of which enough data would be accumulated to determine which models successfully integrated these people into post-secondary education.

The institutions were given ample latitude to implement the program in a way that fit their campus and educational mission, but they all shared a “focus on vocational training students need to succeed in the job market,” writes Hopkins. Kim Musheno, director of legislative affairs for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, tells her that results are already showing people with disabilities were more likely to find jobs following their participation in the program. Hopkins also speaks with program directors at some of the participating schools to hear how TPSID is benefiting students beyond the academic aspect:

On some campuses, students with intellectual disabilities have the option to live amongst peers in dormitories. At one school, a music-loving student explored his passion through an internship at a local radio station. At another, the option of joining campus organizations helped a student overcome a reticence to interact with others.

TPSID grants have been providing around $11 million to institutions of higher learning during each of the first three years of the program. However, there is no specific mention of the grant in the budget proposal Obama has submitted on February 13. Hopkins notes that the funding could come from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), which has a proposed increase for 2013, but one expert she speaks with is wary that students with disabilities “won’t be seen as a priority.”

On the bright side, Hopkins notes that the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) is included in the proposal at its current level of funding. The act provides grants for students with disabilities to attend public schools from ages 3 to 21. Nevertheless, we’ve covered the academic and social value of these post-secondary education programs for people with disabilities previously, and the anecdotal evidence is difficult to ignore. It would be unfortunate to lose the opportunity to obtain hard data provided by TPSID grants.


Image by Carmichael Library, used under its Creative Commons license.

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