Legislative Action at the State Level
State legislation is an important tool in the toolbox to help develop postsecondary education options for students with ID. State legislation has been written, introduced and frequently passed by State legislatures to address the need for program and student funding, as well as to raise awareness of the need for PSE options at the state level.
Think College NCC carefully tracks all bills introduced in state legislatures across the country that relate to postsecondary education for students with intellectual disability. In our resource library we share information on all the bills that get proposed because we think whether or not they are passed, they offer the field a helpful view of what is being considered across the country and may provide an example of something you could work to introduce to your state legislature. We indicate their status, so you can see which ones have passed. Visit “What’s Happening in Your State” and click on where you live to see the bills proposed and/or passed in your state. It may also be helpful to look at what other states around you have done as a way of encouraging your legislators to “keep up” with their neighbors.
Currently in our Resource Library there is information on 42 bills in 20 states related to PSE for students with ID that have been proposed and/or passed in recent years. If you know of bills we don’t have in our library, let us know and we are happy to add them.
Of note are the states that have passed legislation that addresses the critical issue of funding for inclusive higher education. Five states (MD, FL, CO, GA, MA) have passed bills that provide funding to establish or improve college programs in their state, and 10 states (FL, AL, TN, KY, NC, SC, OH, ND, MN, DE) have passed bills that provide access to funding for students with ID to attend college.
Six states have legislation being considered right now in the current legislative session:
Louisiana’s SB 192 will establish a fund that will finance the creation of comprehensive inclusive postsecondary education programs at all of Louisiana’s public postsecondary education institutions, technical assistance to new programs and public information on inclusive PSE options.
In Minnesota, Senate bill 3972 and House bill 4210 have been introduced and referred to committee. This bill will create an Inclusive Higher Education Technical Assistance Center and a competitive grant program to develop or enhance college programs for students with ID in that state.
In Colorado, the house is considering HB 1107, which would provide state funding for the development of college programs for students with ID through a competitive grant program.
Iowa’s House is considering HF2495, a bill to establish a scholarship program for students with ID attending CTP programs in that state.
Kentucky is also looking at ways to provide funding for students to attend CTP programs by expanding eligibility for the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship to include students with ID attending CTP programs, through KY Senate bill 94
New York State has bills in both the House and the Senate (S1786 and A3032) that, if passed, will allow students attending approved CTP programs to receive financial aid from the NY state tuition assistance programs.
Knowing about these bills provides an opportunity for citizens in these states who are passionate about increasing access to PSE for students with ID to let your legislators know you support passage of these bills! Call your state representative and ask if they support these bills. If not, tell them why they should. If you don’t know who your state representatives are, go to https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/ and type in your address. It will tell you your state and federal representatives. Click on the name of your state legislators to get all of their contact information.
To wrap up this legislation update, I want to do a shout-out to the individual who has led the effort to collect all this information about state legislation for Think College NCC. For the past several years, this important work has been done by our partner organization, the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) and in particular, Siddarth Nagaraj. Through his careful and constant review of legislation being proposed, we have been able to share links to all legislation that is proposed, and to update our information when any of those bills are passed. While this important work will continue at the NCC, it will be handled by a new person, as Siddarth has accepted a position working on international disability rights initiatives. He leaves us with big shoes to fill, and we thank him so much for his work.
About the post author: Cate Weir is the project director for the Think College National Coordinating Center, a position she has held since the Center’s inception in 2010. She admires the grassroots advocacy that has led to state action to support postsecondary education for students with intellectual disability.