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20 Colleges With Great Inclusion Programs for Students With Disabilities

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Graduating high school and entering college is often seen as a coming-of-age experience. It marks the starting point of many things: obtaining independence, developing and harnessing various skills, making new and potentially lifelong friends and gathering new experiences. However, it can also be difficult adjusting to these new aspects of college life.

This can be especially worrisome for students with disabilities and their parents. Along with the usual considerations of price, location and merit of the university, you’ll also want to look into the certificate programs your top-choice schools offer for students with disabilities because not all programs are created equal.

Mighty contributor Courtney Hansen has already begun looking into college programs for her twin boys, one of whom has Down syndrome. While researching various colleges, she saw a stark contrast in the ways many top universities treat their disabled students. In her article “Yes, My Son With Down Syndrome Can Go to College,” she wrote:

I noticed that these college programs are not all created equal. They range from Syracruse’s InclusiveU Program, which boasts a four-year certification program where students take the same exact classes as their neurotypical peers and live with those peers, to community college programs where students are completely segregated and only learn life skills. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these college programs fall into the latter category.

Many available disability services provide sign language interpreter services, accommodations for testing and note-taking, priority seating and registration, and assistive learning devices or adaptive technology. However, there are universities that don’t just stop there. Some universities also have inclusive programs that add invaluable life, work and academic skills while still focusing on the typical college experience.

With thousands of colleges to choose from all over the country, we asked a few of our Mighty communities what colleges they recommend with really outstanding programs for students with disabilities.

Here are a few of their suggestions:

1. Appalachian State University

(Boone, North Carolina)

Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program (SDAP) at Appalachian State is a two-year certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities. Students in the program are supported by disability staff and other students who serve as peer mentors. Students design their own schedule and can enroll in classes just like any other university student. They are also able to participate in employment opportunities, internships and volunteer positions.

If you’re interested in learning more about Appalachian State University’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

2. Auburn University

(Auburn, Alabama)

Auburn University worked with me even when I missed so many classes I would have ‘failed due to absences.’ They wiped that semester out for me and my accommodations kept me healthy enough. Also, my friend had severe dyslexia and had lots of accommodations as well. All this was 2006 to 2010 so I can only imagine how much better it is now,” said Mighty community member Megan S.

In addition to an inclusive university atmosphere, the EAGLES (Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success) Program is a non-degree track for students with intellectual disabilities. The program offers a two-year program that focuses on developing leadership skills, life skills and independence. EAGLES students participate in coursework, work-training, community service projects and academic coaching sessions.

Find out more about Auburn University’s disability programs and services on the school’s website.

3. California State University, Fresno

(Fresno, California)

Wayfinders at CSU Fresno is a two-year non-degree program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students in the Wayfinder program take classes on interviewing, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and more. They eventually practice and hone these skills through a four-semester internship. Students living in dorms get extra assistance on independent living skills like budgeting, and have full access to on-campus activities, including the university’s devoted Special Olympics team.

In addition, Fresno State recently began its TRiO program, which provides opportunities for low-income disabled students to receive personalized career counseling, academic coaches, financial literacy advising and more. The university’s disability support services also offer scholarships to students in its programs.

If you want to know more about California State University, Fresno’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

4. California State University, Northridge (CSUN)

(Northridge, California)

CSUN Explorers is a two-year certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. CSUN students take academic classes each semester and in topics to develop independence, life skills and career skills. They also have the chance to be a part of on-campus internships and clubs. Each student is paired with a peer mentor for each class and a buddy for each club they are in.

In addition, CSUN has one of the largest deaf communities of any college campus in the country. Students receive access to speech-to-word transcribers, priority registration, note takers and more. CSUN also hosts conferences every year to discuss the best ways to support youth with hearing loss in education.

Learn more about California State University, Northridge’s disability programs and services on its website.

5. Clemson University

(Clemson, South Carolina)

ClemsonLIFE is a Clemson University program that helps students with intellectual disabilities integrate into college life and independent living. ClemsonLIFE is divided into its two-year basic program and two-year advanced program. The basic program teaches students how to do well in class, find employment and live a healthy lifestyle. The advanced program is for students who successfully complete the basic program and want to build on their knowledge.

To learn more about Clemson University’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

6. Curry College

(Milton, Massachusetts)

Curry College’s Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL) is an internationally recognized disability program named by College Magazine as one of the top 10 colleges for students with learning disabilities. The program has a low 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio so each student gets individual care. It offers a summer program that doesn’t just help students familiarize themselves with the college campus but also with the Boston area through field trips and tours. The program also helps international students with disabilities by giving them an individually designed cultural immersion program and a peer group of students from a similar cultural background.

If you want to get additional information about Curry College’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

7. Kent State University

(Kent, Ohio)

I went to Kent State University and their disability program was way ahead of any others at the time. (I graduated in 1995.) I think it is likely still a great program because, in the last alumni magazine, there was a 6-8 page article about the deaf community,” said Mighty community member Kelly B.

In addition to its inclusive atmosphere, Kent State’s Campus Transition Project (CTP) is a three-year program designed for students with intellectual disabilities to have a good campus experience. Curriculum varies based on a student’s individual needs, field of study and interests, but the ultimate goal for the program is for students to become independent, develop social skills, gain confidence and have an authentic college experience.

Get additional information about Kent State University’s disability programs and services by visiting the school’s website.

8. Lesley University

(Cambridge, Massachusetts)

The Threshold Program at Lesley U is a non-degree, two-year program for students with learning differences. During the first two years of college, the program focuses on career development, independent living and creating a supportive college environment. After completion, the university offers students assistance to transition into the real world. They have the option to either remain on campus, take classes and intern part-time or live off campus, take courses on how to register for state support and begin looking for employment.

To learn more about Lesley University’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

9. Marshall University

(Huntington, West Virginia)

The H.E.L.P. (Higher Education for Learning Problems) program at Marshall University is a nationally recognized support program for students with learning disabilities. Within the H.E.L.P program are seven divisions that tackle various aspects of college. For example, students can choose the skills development program, which teaches disabled college students how to become organized and succeed academically or the summer prep program, which helps integrate freshman and transfer students into Marshall University by teaching them about available resources.

To learn more about Marshall University’s others disability programs, visit its website.

10. Missouri State University

(Springfield, Missouri)

Missouri State’s Bear POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Work, Education and Resilience) is a two-year, five-semester program that allows students to develop their own career and course plan with the help of mentors. The program began earlier this year to support students with disabilities. Students develop life skills while receiving guidance on resume building, career development and interviewing. During your second semester, students get the opportunity to demonstrate their skills at an internship, either on-campus or in the community. POWER students are paired with up to five student mentors who provide social, academic and health support. Missouri State’s Disability Resource Center has various scholarships open to students with disabilities.

If you’re interested in learning more about Missouri State University’s disability programs and services, visit the website.

11. New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)

(New York or Long Island, New York)

NYIT on Long Island has a traditional degree program along with a vocational-internship program for students [who] would benefit [from] the daily activities of living too,” said Mighty community member Eileen H.

NYIT’s Vocational Independence Program (VIP) is a transition program for young adults with learning disabilities. The program, which lasts three years, places students in internships, professional development classes and academic support resources. Qualified applicants can also enroll to get an associate’s degree in communication arts or business administration. If you’re not sure if you want to enroll in VIP, the university also has a five-week summer program called I-to-I. It allows students to try out the VIP curriculum, integrate into residential life at NYIT and enjoy campus activities.

Want to know more about the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)’s disability programs and services? Visit its website.

12. Southern Oregon University

(Ashland, Oregon)

University Coaching and Academic Mentoring (UCAM) is a year-long program at Southern Oregon University that includes academic coaching, student mentors, writing coaches and skill development classes. Your coach can provide advice on navigating school life, assistance on setting long-term academic and career goals and a study buddy. Students who regularly utilized UCAM’s resources improved their GPA an average of 0.72 points, according to the school. Students registered with the disability center are given a weekly list of scholarships and internship opportunities they can apply for.

To get more information about Southern Oregon University’s disability program, visit its website.

13. Syracuse University

(Syracuse, New York)

Syracuse University is internationally recognized for its programs for disabled individuals. As Mighty contributor Courtney Hansen wrote, Syracuse’s InclusiveU allows students to enroll in regular classes, participate in school programs and intern on campus. The internship takes place during a students’ last year and the student is placed in an area of their interest. The school also offers seminars taught by the program’s staff and students workers. These seminars include topics such as an exercise and nutrition, a history of disabilities in the U.S. and financial literacy, among others. They also have a Peer2Peer program, which pairs InclusiveU students with other students on campus.

If you’re interested in learning more about Syracuse University’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

14. Texas Tech University

(Lubbock, Texas)

Texas Tech was named one of the most affordable universities for disabled students and has one of the best online programs for students. In addition to the accommodations that Texas Tech’s disability center provides to 2,000 of its students, the university also has the TECHniques program. TECHniques is an academic support service that assists students with learning disabilities, ADHD or who are on the autism spectrum. It provides one-on-one tutoring and sessions with an academic counselor each week. It is the only program of its kind in Texas. The student disability center also offers scholarships specifically for its and compiles a list of external organizations that offer scholarships to disabled students.

To find out more about Texas Tech University’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

15. The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)

(Ewing, New Jersey)

The Career and Community Studies Program (CCS) at TCNJ is a four-year certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities. Students in CCS are given a student life mentor to support their transition into college and become more active on campus. In addition, CSS students wtake courses in career development, health and technology. In their last three years in the program, students can apply what they learned in off-campus and on-campus jobs and internships.

If you’re interested in learning more about The College of New Jersey’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

16. University of Arizona

(Tucson, Arizona)

Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) provides support for University of Arizona students with disabilities. SALT students receive advice on achieving personal and professional goals, one-on-one tutoring services as well as strategies to succeed in class. Group workshops teach students how to effectively take notes, curb procrastination and strengthen their communication skills. There are also psychological services and therapies for students in SALT dealing with depression, anxiety or stress.

Find out more about the University of Arizona’s disability programs and services by visiting its website.

17. University of Ozarks

(Clarksville, Arkansas)

“Check out the Jones Learning Center at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas. I am the Coordinator of ASD Services here, and we have an incredible program,” said Mighty community member Matthew E. “We are passionate about helping neurodiverse learners find social, academic and emotional success.”

The University of the Ozarks has been ranked one of the “50 Best Disability Friendly Colleges and Universities” in the country by College Choice. The school’s Jones Learning Center is a support program that provides personalized academic support, guidance to adjust to college life and trained tutors for students with learning disabilities. There is a low student-to-staff ratio so each student receives individual attention and support. The university also provides programs and public events to help educate the community about disabilities.

If you’re interested in learning more about the University of the Ozarks’ disability programs and services, visit its website.

18. University of South Carolina

(Columbia, South Carolina)

CarolinaLIFE is a non-degree program for students with disabilities at the University of South Carolina. Courses in the program include subjects such as employment, personal finance and communication. While living on campus, students will also be coached on how to complete household chores, create a budget and cook healthy meals. In order to integrate students into college life, CarolinaLIFE students join other University of South Carolina students in classes, work study, sporting events, clubs and more.

Learn more about the University of South Carolina’s disability programs and services on the school’s website.

19. University of West Georgia

(Carrollton, Georgia)

Project WOLVES is a two-year program for disabled students at the University of West Georgia. Students in Project WOLVES participate in all the usual campus activities such as clubs and school events with peer mentors, who also help new WOLVES get adjusted to college. Each student is given an academic plan that aligns with their specific interests. Courses may include academic work, employment skills and tools for independent living. The program also puts a strong emphasis on socializing, volunteering and internship projects.

Find out more about the University of West Georgia’s disability programs and services on its website.

20. Xavier University

(Cincinnati and Norwood, Ohio)

X-Path at Xavier University is geared toward students on the autism spectrum who have been accepted into a traditional degree program at the school and need accommodations. Students work with staff and peer coaches to smoothly integrate into college, succeed academically and become independent. In addition, Xavier has a service called ClockWorks, which gives access to disabled students for scheduling, organizing and planning accommodations such as note-taking assistance, needing a service or emotional support animal or exam accommodations.

If you’re interested in learning more about Xavier University’s disability programs and services, visit its website.

Know of any other universities with amazing disability programs? Let us know in the comments!

Update: This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of Southern Oregon University.

Originally published: March 20, 2019
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