What’s Going on in Congress Related to Inclusive Higher Education?

The Higher Education Act, the main piece of federal legislation that affects inclusive college programs, is not being reviewed by Congress right now. So, why should you still pay attention to what Congress is up to? What else can Congress do that affects students in inclusive college programs, not just model demonstration projects, or TPSIDs, but all inclusive college programs? Actually, there is a lot going on that could affect college students with disabilities.

  • Congress can make sure students coming into college don’t need to prove their disability AGAIN to get accommodations.
    • RISE Act: Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act- (HR 4786): If passed, the RISE Act would require colleges to accept an IEP or 504 plan as evidence of disability when a student is seeking accommodations in college. It would also support a Technical Assistance Center for college faculty to learn more about the needs of students with disabilities.
  • Congress can make sure that people with disabilities can work in the community and get paid for their work without discrimination just like everyone else.
    • Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (TCIEA) (H.R. 2373 and S. 3238) would phase out the use of subminimum wage to people with disabilities under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act over five years. It also would provide money to help states and territories offer more competitive integrated employment.
  • Congress can increase funding Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) which are for supports and services to help people with disabilities live their everyday lives in their communities, including going to school and being employed. These are sometimes referred to as Medicaid waiver services. Depending on what your state provides, this can include assisting with everyday tasks such as getting dressed, transportation support, tuition assistance, housing, personal care services at college.
    • Better Care Better Jobs Act (H.R. 4131 and S.2210) would provide technical assistance and new programs and funds for state Medicaid programs to improve home and community-based services (HCBS), such as home health care, personal care, employment services and transportation.
  • Congress can increase the access to ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts, which can be used for tuition and other payments for college.
    • ABLE Age Adjustment Act (H.R. 1210. S. 331). Now, to establish an ABLE account, an individual must have become disabled before age 26. This bill would increase that age to 46 so more people could create ABLE Accounts.
  • Congress can increase the current amount a person with a disability on social security can save  so that people with disabilities can work and have money available for emergencies.
    • SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act (S. 4102) would Increase the amount from $2,000 in ($3,000 for couples) to $10,000 for individuals ($20,000 for couples). The amount would also increase over time.

So, even if Congress isn’t working on the Higher Education Opportunity Act, they are working on other pieces of legislation that may affect the college experience for people with intellectual disability, and they are important! And the Members of Congress need to hear from you about WHY they are important to you and your life. (You can go back and read these blog posts on advocacy and using Twitter for reminders of how to contact your representatives and what to say to them.)

About the blog author: Denise Rozell is Director of Policy Innovation, Education and Employment Team, at Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD). Denise works primarily on issues affecting youth in post-secondary education, employment and independent living including as the co-Director for the PROMISE Technical Assistance Center (Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income). As she says she is a self-described policy geek, and a valuable contributor to the work of Think College NCC. 

National Coordinating Center