For Families: Understanding the Options

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How many programs are there?

College Search on the Think College website has details over 300 postsecondary education programs for students with ID in the U.S., and new programs are added as they are submitted. On Think College Search you can filter programs based on the student's criteria, such as where it is located, whether campus housing is available, how long the program is, and so on.  You can also save your favorites to a downloadable spreadsheet so you can compare program features.

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 college-based transition services, 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 and Postsecondary (CTP) Program and Transition Postsecondary Education Program for Students with Intellectual Disability (TPSID). Let’s review what these terms mean.

If a program is an approved CTP Program, 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. At this time there are around 109 approved CTP programs (as of April 2020). In Think College Search we indicate programs that are an approved CTP with a dollar sign icon. If a program is not a CTP program, 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. The projects receive federal funding for 5 years to help them develop and improve college programs. There are currently 25 funded projects around the country. Think College serves as the National Coordinating Center for TPSID.  Learn more about TPSID.

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