For Families: Understanding the Options

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How many programs are there?

College Search on the Think College website has details of over 240 postsecondary education programs for students with ID in the U.S., and new programs are added as they are submitted. Students with ID also attend college outside of any formal program; instead they work with their school district or local agencies that provide services to people with disabilities to organize the supports needed to attend classes and participate on campus. Those individual experiences are not included in the College Search.

Programs can differ a lot

When you start looking at the programs in College Search, you will find that some states have several organized college programs for students with ID, others have none. And programs can vary a lot from one another.

  • Length of the program: length ranges from one year to four years, and programs can be at 2-year colleges or 4-year colleges.
  • Level of inclusion: some programs are fully inclusive; in others students spend some or most of the time with other students with ID.
  • Residential options: some programs offer this option. Others do not. Sometimes the housing is on campus; sometimes it’s off campus.
  • Focus or priority of the program: some programs focus more on employment, while others might focus on academics, or independent living skills.
  • Size: some programs have only a few students attending, while others may have dozens or even hundreds of students with ID in attendance.
  • Student age: some programs are dual-enrollment, meaning that they serve students who are still in high school, others serve those who have left high school, and some serve both groups.

College Search gives details on every program that has provided their information so families and students can compare and contrast the various programs that are available.

What is a CTP? How about TPSID - What is that?

Some terms you may hear when looking at college options are Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP) and Transition Postsecondary Education Program for Students with Intellectual Disability (TPSID). Let’s review what these terms mean.

If a program is an approved Comprehensive Transition Program or CTP, students with ID who meet the financial requirements can use federal financial aid grants and work study funds to help pay for the costs of attendance, even if they are not fully matriculated and do not have a high school diploma. It is important for families to know that at this time only some programs are CTP. If a program is not a CTP, then students with ID are not eligible for federal financial aid. A list of programs that are currently approved as a CTP, along with more information about financial aid for students with ID can be found on the Federal Student Aid website.

Transition Postsecondary Education Program for Students with Intellectual Disability, or TPSID, is a term that is used to describe a group of programs that are funded by a federal grant. There are 25 of these currently funded around the country. For the most part, attending a program that is part of this group does not have an impact on the students who are attending—but it is a term that is used in the field, so we wanted you to know what it meant. Think College serves as the National Coordinating Center for the TPSID.  Learn more about TPSID on the National Coordinating Center page on the Think College website.

A program can be a TPSID, a CTP, both a CTP and TPSID, or neither. Just so you know!

Insight Brief #12 discusses the history of the development of postsecondary options for students with ID, as well as future implications.Read more

This Brief informs readers about models of postsecondary programs for students with ID, describing them in terms of level of inclusion: substantially separate, mixed/hybrid and inclusive. It also provides information on program funding and includes a list of resources....Read more