TN Inclusive Higher Education programs


We know that education is the door of
opportunity for all of our students, the door of opportunity for employment, the
opportunity to support ourselves and our families. Across the state of Tennessee
we have six institutions of higher education that have inclusive programs
to support all of our students, our students with developmental disabilities
who have every possibility of success in their lives. That requires our families,
our educators in our schools, to create the support systems necessary to
encourage all of our kids to pursue their dreams. Together we can make
Tennessee what we know it can and should be – an inclusive space for all of our
students to reach their goals. Inclusive higher education is the name for college certificate programs for students with intellectual and developmental
disabilities. Students in these programs take classes, go to sporting events, eat
in the cafeteria and enjoy being a college student with their peers. The
programs provide education and training for work. They also help students make
friends, be more independent, and have the chance for a better quality of life.
The Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities worked with the Vanderbilt
Kennedy Center to open the first inclusive higher education program in
2010. The council then supported new programs in each grand region of the
state. Program sites now include Vanderbilt and Lipscomb universities in
Nashville, the University of Memphis, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and
Union University in Jackson. East Tennessee State University in Johnson City is the newest inclusive higher education program opening in fall of
2019. Each of these schools is learning the benefits of including this new group
of students. Early research shows that both faculty and students are growing in
their lives and work through these programs. Eligible students are those who
really want to keep learning in a formal setting and want to grow their
employment and independence skills. They need to be able to be appropriate
and safe on a university campus without constant supervision. Inclusive higher
education is for students with cognitive disabilities who have no other way of
accessing college. Each program’s website gives more details about who is eligible.
Most students can get help with tuition costs. Tennessee passed a law that gives
access to education lottery funds for eligible inclusive higher education
students. Some programs are able to offer Tennessee Promise and Reconnect grants. Students can apply for federal tuition assistance such as Pell grants for most
of Tennessee’s inclusive programs. Vocational rehabilitation funds can also
be used to help clients with tuition costs. Check the program websites for
additional tuition assistance information. Why did you want to go to
college? I wanted – my brother at the time was going to college and I wanted the
same opportunities as him. Like going to class and making friends and interning. I learned how to take care of myself. I live in a dorm room with the roommate.
What should high-school students who think they want to attend college, what
should they be doing now to get ready? High schoolers should be learning how to self-advocate for themselves like practicing having their
own idea, and being independent and using basic technologies like searching online for something. My best college memory is being a student
manager (for) basketball. I filled up water bottles and folded towels.
Lipscomb won a lot of games. I made a lot of new friends. As you look back on your time in college how did it prepare you for your current life situation? It
prepared me to be to self-advocate for myself – being independent, being social in
the community and having a job after I graduate. Expecting that people with
disabilities will be a full part of life in their schools, on the job and in their
communities is key. It leads to both the opportunities and relationships students
with intellectual disabilities need to set goals and reach their dreams.
Families and schools can encourage, provide and support experiences and
opportunities that help students prepare academically, form social connections,
develop advocacy skills and increase independence. These four parts are all
necessary for the success of any student in college. Employment statistics for
adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are very
discouraging. Unemployment rates reach 70 to 85 percent nationally. Yet the
employment rate for graduates from our state’s inclusive higher education
programs is the exact opposite. 90 days after graduation 88 percent of graduates
from the 2017 and 2018 classes were employed. Students who want to apply will
need to visit each program’s website for application information. Students will
need to complete an online application, provide medical reports about their
disability, and share why they are interested in attending college. We
strongly encourage students to apply in the fall before the year they wish to
attend. Some programs also have week-long summer programs that help students to
better plan for college. If you want to learn more you can start by going to the
Tennessee inclusive higher education of website TNIHEAlliance.org. That is TNIHE Alliance.org. From there you can click on links to state and
national sites like Think College which has an easy-to-use searchable map for
programs across the country. The Tennessee Alliance also holds open
quarterly meetings you can join in person or online. All of our state’s
programs hold regular open house events for students, families, classrooms, and
even educators to join. Check out each school’s website for more information.

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