Feature Issue on Inclusive Higher Education for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities
Think College! A Program and a Mantra
Think college. These two words can be a statement, a request or maybe even a command if you add an exclamation point: Think College! These words encourage people to consider postsecondary education, to plan for what is next on the educational journey after high school.
They are also the name of a national organization at the University of Massachusetts Boston, located within the Institute for Community Inclusion. Think College, as an organization, focuses its work on a group of students who have historically been excluded from postsecondary education – students with intellectual disability.
The words “think college” also serve as a mantra of sorts, our call to action. Our team works daily to raise awareness, enhance existing college opportunities, and create more opportunities for students with intellectual disability to go to college.
At its core, Think College’s reason for being is to increase the number of students with intellectual disability pursuing postsecondary education. In service to that fundamental goal, it conducts multiple federal and state-funded projects.
Since 2003, Think College has received 15 federal and state grants with a focus on postsecondary education for students with ID from multiple federal and state agencies. It operates eight projects under the Think College umbrella.
Current and past funding has supported Think College to:
- Develop and maintain the only national website sharing information about postsecondary education for students with ID, including a database of programs
- Develop accreditation standards for college programs for students with ID
- Provide training to college programs through in-person events, online learning modules and webinars
- Operate a national help desk answering thousands of questions from educators, families, and students
- Create and disseminate hundreds of resources, including publications, reports, and a film designed to raise awareness of college options
- Support the development of disability policy advocates
- Develop and maintain a list of all state-level legislation related to higher education for students with ID
- Develop an accessible gaming platform for elementary and middle school students to explore college and career options
- Train transition professionals and research the impact of college-based transition services
- Conduct and publish research into the efficacy of college-based transition services
All Think College projects, products, and activities strive to increase the availability and quality of college options for students with intellectual disability. They help ensure that educators, students, families, employers, and community members are aware that college is an option for students with ID, and they help students with ID prepare to continue their education after high school.
Who is Think College?
Think College is staffed by 24 committed and passionate professionals with decades of experience in inclusive higher education, special education, and transition. Staff members have a range of expertise, including inclusive college program development, accreditation of college programs, research in transition and inclusive higher education, universal design for learning, differentiated instruction, knowledge translation and dissemination, state and regional capacity building, and personnel preparation.
What can Think College do for you?
Think College can provide support to anyone looking for assistance and/or resources related to postsecondary education for students with ID. Our resources and free on-demand technical assistance are designed for and available to multiple stakeholders.
Here are a few topics Think College can assist with:
- Students: find college programs, get training and support to learn more about policy and advocacy. Learn about how to get ready for college
- Parents and family – resources and on-demand technical assistance on supporting your students to get prepared for college, paying for college and other related topics
- College programs – free technical assistance for program development and improvement, program accreditation, Comprehensive Transition Postsecondary (CTP) program approval process
- K-12 Educators – Individualized education plan development for students preparing for college, understanding college options
- College faculty and staff – Universal Design for Learning resources, differentiated instruction, assistance with integrating CTP programs into existing college systems
What is next for TC?
With continued support from the U.S. Department of Education and other funders, we look forward to sustaining and expanding the work begun almost two decades ago.
Think College’s newest project, the Think College Inclusive Higher Education Network, will support the development of regional alliances of college programs and a national member network. These alliances will target growth of college options throughout the United States and offer technical assistance and collaborative support at a state and regional level, enhancing the reach and depth of the resources from Think College. We will also launch a national public awareness campaign and a plan for improving career preparation and employment partnerships.
As we reflect on 19 years of development and growth of Think College and the field of higher education for students with ID, we are grateful for the investments that have been made, and for the work of hundreds of creative, impassioned professionals who continue to improve the more than 300 college opportunities that exist today. We also greatly appreciate the students who have worked hard to earn college credentials, and their families who supported them. Their successes will lead the way for so many others.
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