UMass Boston

Think College Launches Public Awareness Campaign to Expand College Access for Students with Intellectual Disability


04/24/2023| Office of Communications

Think College, a center at UMass Boston dedicated to expanding college options for students with intellectual disability, announced today the launch of its public awareness campaign, Think Higher. Think College. The campaign aims to expand college access for students with intellectual disability (ID) by ensuring students explore a variety of college options during transition planning, increasing the number of institutions of higher education offering programs for students with ID, and preparing students for college while in high school.

While over 420,000 school-age students in the United States have an intellectual disability, less than 2 percent attend college after high school, despite improved outcomes for employment, income, and independence. Of students with ID who attend postsecondary education, 59 percent find competitive, integrated employment and 51 percent earn higher wages than non-attendees. For the 98% of adults with ID who do not go to college, only 15% have paid employment in the community, 42 percent attend a day program or sheltered workshop, 44 percent report they often or sometimes feel lonely, and 29 percent live below the poverty line. The data tell a clear story: higher education can positively impact the lives of students with ID, highlighting the need to expand awareness and access to these opportunities.

From April 24–28, Think College is hosting Think College Awareness Week to kick off the campaign and raise awareness around access to college education for students with ID. Think College Awareness week features free, virtual events for the public, led by students, families, and educators. Key partners for this week include Council for Administrators of Special Education (CASE), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT), National Technical Assistance Center on Transition: The Collaborative (NTACT:C), PEAK Parent Center, The PACER Center, RAISE - A SPAN Project, Urban Collaborative, and AHEAD.

"Think College is committed to ensuring students with intellectual disability have access to the same college opportunities as their peers without disabilities. We know from our work around the country over the past 15 years Inclusive Postsecondary Education (IPSE) programs improve outcomes for students and provide benefits to the broader college community. Our Think Higher. Think College. campaign is a call-to-action to students and families—and the educators that support them—to consider college as an option. We also want to reach college administrators who can expand access to these programs," said Meg Grigal, Co-Director of Think College.

There are over 300 non-degree programs in the US for students with ID at public and private, 4-year and 2-year colleges and universities, and technical colleges. Some programs focus on a general certificate and others have more specific career-focused certificates. Some programs offer residential living for students with ID in the campus dorms or apartments, though many offer commuter opportunities.

"This campaign aims to remind us all about the potential of every student, including those with intellectual disability. By expanding college access, we are helping to build a more inclusive society where everyone can reach their full potential," said Dan Habib, Think College Advisory Board Member and Filmmaker with the Westchester Institute for Human Development.

Register for or watch recordings of the Think College Awareness Week events.

For more information on Think Higher. Think College. please visit www.thinkhighered.net to access campaign resources, including a video, fact sheets, toolkits, and success stories of students with ID who have attended college. Follow Think College and tag us on social media using @thinkcollegeICI and #ThinkHigherThinkCollege.

About Think College

Think College is a national technical assistance, research, and evaluation center dedicated to developing, expanding, and improving higher education options for students with intellectual disability. It is based at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

About the Institute for Community Inclusion

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities through training, consultation, clinical and employment services, and research. ICI is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities based at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Boston Children's Hospital.