Community colleges are seeing a significant increase in students with intellectual and physical disabilities, reports Community College Times. It’s a “tsunami,” says Wayne Burton, president of North Shore Community College (NSCC) in Massachusetts.
The college is enrolling more students with autism and veterans with brain injuries and mobility issues, says Susan Graham, director of disability services.
NSCC’s Project Access offers non-credit classes on basic cooking, healthy living, career exploration, computer basics, social skills for the workplace, acting, singing and other topics. Some classes are taught by students in the associate degree program in developmental disabilities.
Lewis and Clark Community College in Illinois offers non-credit courses in art, exercise, computers, and popular culture to 60 College for Life students with severe developmental disabilities.
Some colleges are preparing intellectually disabled students for employment and independent living.
Highline Community College in Washington state is working with K-12 school districts and the state’s vocational rehabilitation department to provide transitional services to youths ages 18 to 21.
Students live in a dorm the first year and live independently the second year.
Students take courses in meal planning and preparation, interpersonal relations, budgeting, and self-advocacy and the rights of individuals with disabilities. The money students earn in work-study helps them pay their room and board, which is about $710 a month.
Staffing and facilities cost $32,000 a year per student, which is paid by the California Department of Developmental Services.
The college recently added a third year, when students are placed in jobs with the program’s corporate partners. Five students are currently employed at Frito-Lay, working toward certificates in merchandising while earning about $13.25 an hour. Other students have jobs as a dental assistant, child care worker, and an office clerk.
However, the state is likely to save money in the long run: More than 95 percent of the program’s graduates live independently and 89 percent have jobs. That’s much higher than the average for mentally retarded or autistic adults.