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Changes in Federal Policy: Helping Students with Intellectual Disabilities Gain Access to College

Changes in Federal Policy: Helping Students with Intellectual Disabilities Gain Access to College

This article discusses the recent changes to the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA), P.L. 110-315, which have resulted in providing greater access to college programs to students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Prior to the amendments to HEOA, only students who were enrolled full time in a degree bearing program were eligible to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) under title IV of Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA form is the gateway to all federal student aid including Pell grants, Stafford and Perkins Loans, and Student Work Study Programs. After a period of public commentary, the United States Department of Education solicited colleges to submit their Comprehensive Transition Programs (CTPs) for federal approval. Only students with ID who are enrolled in a federally approved CTP will be eligible to complete the FAFSA form for student aid under these new rules. For students with ID, they will only be able to receive Federal Pell grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity grants and Federal Work-Study programs funds. They will not be eligible for student loans at this point in time. CTPs must be offered by a participating title IV Institution of Higher Education (IHE). They also must be designed to support students with ID and include an advising and curriculum structure. CTPs must also require students with ID to participate in courses and activities with students without disabilities. The federal government defines students with ID as the following: With mental retardation or significant cognitive impairment "and" who is/was eligible for Free and Appropriate Public Education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This includes students who were private/home-schooled students. The IHE determines if student meets the definition. The passage of the HEOA in 2008 with its changes in the eligibility for federal student aid opens up the doors to many colleges to students with ID that were previously closed. More importantly, these changes provide students with ID the opportunity to gain job and independent living skills. It finally gives many of these students the chance to be a part of the labor force and enjoy independent, fulfilling lives.

APA Citation: 

VanBergeijk, E. O. (2011, December). Changes in federal policy: Helping students with intellectual disabilities gain access to college. Exceptional Parent Magazine. 38-39.  

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