Students with intellectual disabilities face the same primary challenge as other students when making the decision to go to college…How am I going to pay for it?
There are a number of options available to students, and often the most successful approach is combining multiple sources of funding options to cover the costs. The bottom line is that you need to get creative!
Options may include, but are not limited to:
Financial Aid: The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 established rules that allow students with intellectual disabilities federal financial aid such as Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and the Federal Work-Study program. If a student is attending an approved Comprehensive Transition Program, they can apply for financial aid.
Scholarships: Many foundations provide scholarships to students enrolling in college based on a specific set of criteria. There are also some scholarships that are disability specific. The D.R.E.A.M. Partnership offers scholarships for students with intellectual disabilities who attend currently funded DREAM sponsored programs. Contact Us for additional information regarding participating colleges.
Transition Programs: Transition Programs occur when high school students enroll and participate in college courses, while still being supported by their local school district. The advantage to this type of enrollment is that a student can receive individualized support from their high school (under IDEA) while also having the opportunity to experience college. In this circumstance, the school district may be responsible for transportation and educational coaching. Also, the school system may cover the cost of college tuition, fees, and/or books. School districts that support Transition Programs can develop a cost-sharing plan with the college and the adult service agency that supports the student.
Medicaid funds: In Pennsylvania, individuals who receive funding from Medicaid for community based supports have used those funds to help pay for the services and supports they need for college. To find out more about this source of funding, contact the county office for intellectual and developmental disabilities.