Monday, November 30, 2015

Portland State University: A trailblazer in making college accessible to people who have intellectual disabilities

PSU will become the first university in all of Oregon to offer a truly inclusive college experience to people with intellectual disabilities.  The university was recently awarded a $2.5 million five-year grant from the US Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education.

The funds will be used to create a program dedicated to making sure people with intellectual disabilities will get the support they need to succeed in college.  The program will start by enrolling about five students next year, with plans to expand in the future.  A total of thirty-five students are expected to take part over the five-year grant period.
A photo of a black sign with gold lettering spelling out “PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY.”  The sign is a few feet high and is positioned on the ground, where  clumps of ferns surround it.  In the background are widely spaced rows of trees, bare of leaves.  Patchy green grass covers the ground.  A few buildings are visible beyond the trees.
Image courtesy Another Believer/Wikimedia Commons
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The project will be co-directed by Graduate School of Education faculty members Ann Fullerton and Susan Bert (our readers may recognize Ann Fullerton as the Practicum Coordinator of PSU's Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp Program).  The project, entitled Think College Inclusion Oregon (TCIO), is a partnership between PSU and the Northwest Down Syndrome Association's Think College Inclusion Oregon Coalition, as well as other partners listed on PSU's Graduate School of Education blog.  It is the first of its kind to be implemented at a four-year university in Oregon.

Academic advising and support will be provided for the students enrolled in the program, and they will have part-time jobs on campus and the option of living on campus, too.  Details are currently being finalized, but students will be able to take regular courses for credit or audit the courses, and may have peer tutors to help with key concepts and terms before each class session.  Modified writing assignments will be available. 

According to national organization Think College's Annual Report from fiscal year 2014 (PDF), young people with intellectual disabilities have the lowest rates of education and work among all disability groups.  Low expectations, the report continues, and limited access to education after high school has restricted these individuals' potential to acquire real jobs and real wages.  The TCIO project at PSU aims to help break down that barrier, and will culminate in the certification of its students' skills for employability and adult life.

As a pioneer in this area, PSU will be sharing its approach with colleges in Oregon.  One of the goals of the project will be to create a blueprint to help guide other institutes of higher learning in Oregon in the creation of their own similar programs.

You can learn more about the project on Portland State University's Graduate School of Education blog, and in The Oregonian/Oregon Live.  For more information, contact the Portland State University TCIO program at

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