Making Money or Doing Good
More and more colleges are creating programs for students with disabilities. Some of these students have cognitive disabilities to the extent that they are intellectually limited. Still there is a college program out there for these kids.
As of this coming fall, there are 270 colleges with programs specifically targeted for people with intellectual disabilities. Under typical circumstances these students would not even consider applying to college. Now they can. So isn’t that a good thing?
Students do not receive a degree for the experience. Mostly there are only a few dozen or fewer students in the program. Only some schools allow students to live on campus. They audit regular college courses and are assisted by peer mentors and university advisors. They also participate in internships. Figuring out how to include students with IQ’s at 70 or below is challenging. Advocates insist that students are experiencing college life and maturing in the process. These students are also eligible for postsecondary financial loans to pay for the programs, so they can join their typical peers in completing programs steeped in debt. Most of these programs are only two years long; although Temple has just expanded to a 4-year program. Parents are demanding more of these programs. The students are not graded for their academic work and receive modified assignments. Temple University claims that 60% of graduates are employed, working at day-care centers, restaurants, gyms and at horse farm. Doesn’t this seem really great?
Or maybe it is reality delayed. Students leave these programs having paid regular tuition and with no degree. I wonder how much socialization goes on between these students and typical age-mates. Or is it similar to inclusion programs in the lower grades where socialization with students with disabilities is limited to good deed kindness but not invitations to parties. And are these students prepared for the hard life choices that college students need to make at college parties- to drink or not to drink, have sex or not to have sex? Are they prepared to protect themselves from predators who might take advantage the disability and their deep desire to belong. And while I am being cynical, are these programs the response to the law of diminishing return on 18-year old students who each year are becoming a smaller portion of the population and thereby causing freshmen classes everywhere to take a hit.
What is the benefit to the students with disabilities? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on true training programs that are geared to the young adults abilities rather than putting them in yet another environment where they don’t measure up? So why are colleges starting these programs- they want to do good or they want to fill the gap left behind by the reduced number of typical 18-year old students. You decide.