College grants target ‘intellectually disabled’

As part of the president’s push to lead the world in college graduates, the  Education Department is funding $10.9 million in grants to help students with students with intellectual disabilities attend college.

“Intellectual disabilities” is the new PC term for mental retardation.

The money will fund transitional programs at two- and four-year colleges “that focus on academics and instruction, social activities, employment experiences through work-based learning and internships, and independent living.”

. . . Bergen Community College in New Jersey will use its $394,918 grant to serve 100 students with intellectual disabilities. Bergen Community College will work with Camden County College to provide job coaches who will shadow students at work sites, helping to reinforce job skills and assist with placement into employment. They will also provide peer mentors to support students in academic classes and ease integration of students into social events involving peers without disabilities.

Traditionally community agencies have provided job training, socialization and help with independent living for mentally retarded adults. It’s not clear why colleges would do better. Perhaps community colleges have some suitable job training programs, but do they really offer academic classes that meet the needs of the intellectually disabled? Education Secretary Arne Duncan said students with intellectual disabilities will “attend, complete and succeed in higher education.” Complete what?

About Joanne


  1. Oh, that’s great. Can’t wait to see mentally retarded students enrolled in physics or engineering majors. Even better, can’t wait to hear stories about being stuck in groups with them for projects.
    I have nothing against the mentally retarded, but college is not the place for them, anymore than the military is.
    This is nothing more than a government subsidy for an industry with powerful and connected lobbyists. That and it helps prove the current administration’s ‘commitment’ to universal college diplomas (note I didn’t say education).

  2. This is clearly a huge example of mission creep. And also turf expansion. As you point out, Joanne, there are agencies in every community whose job it is to help cognitively disabled young adults transition to the post-education world. If they’re not doing a good job, help them fix their deficiencies, don’t contribute to the higher-ed bubble.

  3. I do not see how this can serve anyone well. If a student is capable of making it in college already, fine and good. But if it’s someone whose performance would be marginal at best, why set everyone up for frustration? For a lot of profs, it’s already frustrating dealing with the necessary accommodations for the “alphabet soup” learning disorders – this student needs extra time on an exam. This student is math-phobic and should not be given any challenging math questions. This student has a hard time focusing on longer things and so questions on exams need to be short…

    Also: very few college profs (outside of ed school) have any experience or training in special ed. This will lead to great consternation on the part of profs who don’t know how to deal with challenged students, and I can see many of them losing their tempers and patience, and then being referred to HR for being “insensitive.”

  4. alanstorm says:

    I think it’s wonderful that liberals be given a chance to attend college! (/snark)

  5. There’s a scandalously funny joke in the idea of sending “intellectually disabled” kids to college, but political correctness forbids it being told.

  6. Mark Roulo says:

    Can’t wait to see mentally retarded students enrolled in physics or engineering majors.

    Those are not the majors that these students will be taking.

    For what it is worth, I found a dot-gov site that seems to talk about this.

    From the site:
    The term ‘‘student with an intellectual disability’’ means a student —
    (A) With mental retardation or a cognitive impairment, characterized by
    significant limitations in — (i) Intellectual and cognitive functioning; and
    (ii) Adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical
    adaptive skills; and (B) Who is currently, or was formerly, eligible for a free appropriate public education under IDEA.

    -Mark R.

  7. There was a kid in my high school class with major cognitive impairments. I’m not sure what his official diagnosis was (wasn’t Down Syndrome, might’ve been cerebal palsy). Nice kid but he wasn’t even doing anything close to high school level work when he graduated. But, since at our high school something like 96% of the students went on to attend college after graduation, he decided that he wanted to go too. He went off to the local community college but didn’t even finish out the semester. He wound up in some sort of job training program for disabled folks, which is where he should’ve gone in the first place.

  8. Mark-
    Will schools then be able to deny acceptance into more difficult programs due to mental handicap? Once you accept mentally handicapped students into schools and allow them to attend normal classes, there is little to do if one wants to take difficult classes that they are unable to function in.

  9. “Those are not the majors that these students will be taking.”

    Supposedly – but you know that’s going to end up happening. This is the foot in the door of college the IDEA advocates have been looking for. Imagine the IDEA train wreck, which has already destroyed K-12 education in the U.S., applied to major Universities. Imagine it applied to medical schools, law schools, and engineering schools. If this does what some hope it does, the consequences will be disasterous for our society.

    Also, this is grant & scholarship money that students that already qualified for University, the normal way, don’t have access to now. How fair is that?

  10. A lttle overreaction here. These are people with IQ’s under 70; it sounds as if they’ll mainly be taking classes especially for them, and learning job skills. But I still say other agencies are a more appropriate site for this kind of work.

  11. People with IQ’s under 70 shouldn’t have high school diplomas, either, but most of them do because the federal government forced school districts around the country to give them to them anyway. What makes you think the same thing won’t happen to the University system that happened to the K-12 system?

  12. Is there any information about what type of courses and degrees will be available for the ‘intellectually disabled’?

  13. These programs already exist at community colleges; the classes are usually life skills and vocational in nature — with some PE and art or something thrown in. The disabled young adults aren’t in the mainstream academic classes. Social services agencies don’t usually have the types of facilities already in place at an academic institution.

  14. tim-10-ber says:

    Mainstreaming has and continues to cause enough problems in K-12 education. Why in the world would they mainstream kids in college…any college? Surely not…

  15. I am in complete agreement with your stance and you bring up a very relevant point: there are already existing community agencies providing transitional education programs to prepare intellectually disabled students for their lives as independent adults, so why is it that the Department of Education thinks colleges would do a better job than these existing programs? After reading the official announcement on the Department of Education’s website, I am left with many questions. Will a college education really provide a student with an intellectual disability with the skills necessary to live independently and successfully? And, what type, exactly, of a higher education will these students be receiving? I suspect these students will not graduate with a degree; it is more likely that they will end up with a certificate and a good-old-fashioned pat on the back. If that truly is the case, what is wrong with attending a transitional program hosted by a community organization if the outcomes will be the same? If a college wants to incorporate transitional programs for students with intellectual disabilities, changes will surely need to be made to college curriculum in order to make it learning accessible. Creating an accessible classroom and an entire higher education program for students with intellectual disabilities will be expensive, so I wonder if these grants will even be sustainable past the five year mark they have been developed for.

    Even with President Obama’s recent celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I remain skeptical of the reasoning behind the $10.9 million in grants to help students with intellectual disabilities. Instead of promoting disability rights by encouraging greater college attendance, I feel that these grants are a ploy to improve our education rankings among other industrialized nations, thus, the success of individuals with intellectual disabilities is not the motivating force behind these grants The U.S. Secretary of Education announced that “President Obama has set a goal for America to have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020.” As a college undergraduate myself, I recognize the value of a post-secondary education and by no means think that it should be discouraged, but I still feel that students are often told that college is the only option for success in the future. A student, regardless of the presence of a disability, should have the right to choose between college, career, or some other transitional or vocation post-high school option. Promoting a college education as an option is important, but students with intellectual disabilities should not be forced into college programs if they would rather participate in transition programs already established in their community. Placing students with intellectual disabilities in college classrooms simply for the sake of increasing a statistic is selfish and, therefore, these grants should not be taken as a sign of disability acceptance in society, but rather as a ploy to increase the education reputation of the United States.

  16. Can I just say that no one has the right to say who can attend college and who cannot. I am technically disabled. I was hit by a car when i was 16 traveling at about 50MPH and I was struck head on while crossing a street. So I am disabled and I just finished my second year at College. This is after they told my parents that I might never regain my full mental capacity. I had to re-learn how to walk, talk and even swallow. So please take into consideration. even people with disabilitys can attend college if they want.