TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Post-secondary education opportunities are growing for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and a new summit at The University of Alabama aims to increase awareness of the programs across the state of Alabama.
Four public universities and one private school will participate in Alabama’s College Prep Summit, a Sept. 14 college fair at UA for individuals interested in attending a non-traditional college program.
All of the programs represented have, or will soon launch, year-round college certificate programs and will provide information about their programs via exhibits and presentations at the summit. Some of the universities have multi-tiered support programs that provide job training and help those with intellectual disabilities develop social and independent living skills.
The summit, the first of its kind in the state, will be held in the Ferguson Center Ballroom on the UA campus from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendance is free. Registration information can be found here.
“We want to educate parents, teachers and students that college is an option,” said Dr. Amy Williamson, coordinator of UA’s CrossingPoints and Summer Bridge programs. “And, we know that students with intellectual disabilities don’t often have an opportunity to make college visits like their non-disabled counterparts, so this is a great chance to visit with multiple programs at one time.”
Programs participating in the summit include:
-The University of Alabama CrossingPoints program
-Auburn University Eagles program
-Jacksonville State On to JSU
-The Horizons School
-The University of South Alabama Passage USA program
Participating institutions are members of the Alabama Post-secondary Alliance for Intellectual Disabilities, a group comprised of educators and researchers from transition programs and post-secondary education programs across the state. Dr. Kagendo Mutua, director of UA’s CrossingPoints program, a long-running student transition program partnering with the Tuscaloosa City and County schools, said the group creates a network of resources, best-practices and ideas as each university builds its post-secondary program.
UA just completed its third year of Summer Bridge, a $2.5 million expansion of CrossingPoints that provides college preparation to students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. This preparation ranges from guidance on how to complete financial aid paperwork to simulations of independent living. Summer Bridge students also have access to a variety of classes offered to traditional learners.
UA’s next step is to launch a year-round certificate program. USA and JSU have existing programs, and Auburn and Alabama A&M are beginning certificate programs, Williamson said. The Horizons School has partnered with Jefferson State Community College to provide college classes and experiences to its students.
“It’s a large undertaking, particularly for universities that don’t have a first-tier program,” Williamson said. “But that’s why the Alliance is important – they can bounce things off a group of people who have done it, and it strengthens all of our programs.”
Williamson said the increased interest in UA’s Summer Bridge program, from prospective students to faculty across campus, illustrates the need for increased supports to serve a growing student population. Those student supports are expensive, but funding is one of the Alliance’s missions, Williams said.
“We want to find ways within the government to possibly fund student scholarships to the different universities in the state,” she said. “There have been a lot of states with similar alliances, like Tennessee, who’ve been successful in getting some of their vocational rehab monies to support students in post-secondary education.”
More information about UA’s CrossingPoints and Summer Bridge programs can be found here.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.