College-Based Transition Services

College-based transition services (CBTS), also know as dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment, provides students with intellectual disability during their final two to three years of secondary education access to college courses, internships, and employment, as well as access to other campus activities.

When designed well, these experiences enable students to participate in career planning with a person-centered planning approach, enroll in college classes for educational and personal enrichment, engage in social activities alongside their college peers, and participate in community-based, paid work experiences that align with their employment goals.

Developing CBTS opportunities takes a commitment from K-12 school systems and college partners. This means understanding the roles of each stakeholder group, sharing the responsibility of communicating the partnership to key educational personnel, and determining what policies and practices need to be developed or enhanced to create this new model for inclusive college-career options.

Among the tasks that school-college partnerships assume are establishing a memorandum of agreement that articulates the roles and responsibilities of each member, developing a timeline for college preparation and enrollment, designing individualized student schedules, and accessing college and community resources.

News & Features

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are college-based transition services for students with intellectual disability (ID)?

College-based transition programs for students with ID are established on the campus of a college or university for students of transition age (usually 18-21) to provide the opportunity for these students to receive transition services on a college campus with same-age peers instead of at the high school.

These programs are partnerships between a college and one or more school districts, and are typically coordinated by the local school’s transition services personnel. Students usually remain in the program until the student with ID ages out of public school, most often at age 21 or 22.

CBTS creates opportunities for students to be included on campus in all aspects of college life, with supports as necessary. The student’s day consists of course participation, social events, career development activities and competitive integrated employment.

The result is to move the student’s transition services away from a high school-based setting to a college-based setting that is more natural for peers of this age and is more inclusive of peers without disabilities.

What’s an example of a CBTS schedule?

As a result of person-centered planning, a student indicated that he is interested in learning more about printing/graphic design because he is interested in working in a t-shirt print shop. His schedule reflects transition activities that relate to his goal.

It includes taking public transportation, attending college classes, engaging in integrated paid employment, getting support from peer mentors, building self-determination skills, accessing college disability services, and participating in university-based student activities.

The result is to move the student’s transition services away from a high school-based setting to a college-based setting that is more natural for peers of this age and is more inclusive of peers without disabilities. This sample student schedule highlights the TCT model.

Do students earn college credit?

When students are dually enrolled in both high school and college, they may or may not receive academic credit at one or both of the schools. If students do have the opportunity to earn academic credit at both institutions, the term “dual-credit” may also be used.

In some cases, the college credits students earn through a CBTS experience can be used to satisfy high school graduation requirements, and in other cases the high school will not allow the course to satisfy these credit requirements. In most cases, the college credits earned by students are recognized at the collegiate level and can qualify as completed course credits after a high school student is accepted into a postsecondary degree program.

The acceptance of credit, however, is always an individual institutional decision.

Students also have the opportunity to take classes for audit. Auditing a course means a student can take classes but cannot be graded or given credit for a particular course. It is usually done for academic exploration and self-enrichment.

How do students & parents plan for college?

Getting ready for college takes a lot of planning. Use this college planning timeline during grades 9 to 12 to get started on the process. Check out 20 Powerful Strategies to Prepare for Postsecondary Education to help your child get a jump start.

What if your school system doesn’t have a college-based transition program?

Over the past decade, inclusive postsecondary opportunities have become more available to students with ID than ever before. With greater demand for such opportunities as well as greater awareness of the possibilities for youth with ID, developing new programs on college campuses in partnership with school districts is increasingly attainable.

Programs developed to support students with ID should be authentic and integrated within all aspects of the institute of higher education, including course access. Think College has developed Standards, Quality Indicators, and Benchmarks for inclusive higher education. Colleges can use these standards to create, expand, or enhance high-quality, inclusive education to support positive outcomes for individuals with ID.

Check out the companion brief for more information about a validated, standards-based conceptual framework.

An important first step to program development is identifying the aspirations and needs of students and their families, the school district, the college, and the greater community. Developing an interagency team with a broad range of people will enable all members of the opportunity to share their perspectives on the effort to develop postsecondary options.

Once an interagency team has been formed, host a viewing party for team members to watch the film Rethinking College. Rethinking College introduces the audience to what is possible for students with intellectual disability, and explores how initiatives to include them are currently working.

This film is not designed to provide detailed information on how an inclusive higher-education program is established, but rather encourages viewers to examine their own perspectives, ask their own questions, and talk to others about what it means when college is a choice for everyone.

Now it’s time to do some research! With over 250 programs nationwide, those interested in developing a program will find a wide variety of models and approaches to build on. Use Think College’s College Search or email for more information about finding model programs in your area.

The next step is to develop a shared vision for the program that addresses key components of CBTS, including academic access, campus membership, and competitive integrated employment.

Once a shared vision for the program has been developed, the final step is to make a presentation to the school district administration. Focus on the benefits to the school district, college, and community; the development or enhancement of community-based transition services for students with ID/A; and community inclusion to encourage buy-in.

How do you develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the local education agency and the college?

College-based transition programs at several community colleges in Massachusetts have shifted from the use of state funds that were provided as seed money to be self-supporting with the use of IDEA funds and in-kind contributions from the college. Learn more about funding and view a template to establish a memorandum of agreement between a college and a school district.

Can IDEA funds be used to enroll students in a college-based transition program?

Yes! On September 17, 2019, the US Department of Education issued new guidance clarifying that IDEA and vocational rehabilitation funds can be used to support dual enrollment, comprehensive transition, and other postsecondary education programs for students and youth with disabilities.

How do students access disability services on campus?

As more and more colleges and universities begin to offer inclusive programs for students with ID on their campuses, program coordinators look to the disability services office for internal support. Clarity about the complementary roles played by a program for students with intellectual disability and the disability services office comes through ongoing communication, support, guidance, and experience.

Check out this online learning module for more details about this key relationship.

How do you build an effective interagency team?

The primary purpose of interagency transition teams serving youth with disabilities is to improve the post-school outcomes for youth who are transitioning from secondary education to adult life. This NTACT resource assists state-level transition coordinators and others involved in forming teams like these.

This resource is appropriate for state education agency transition coordinators, the department of vocational rehabilitation, the departments of health and human services, parents, local education agencies, postsecondary education institutions, and advocates.

What should I do if I have more questions?