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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

22% of Pomona students are ‘disabled’

“As many as one in four students at some elite U.S. colleges are now

classified as disabled, largely because of mental-health issues such as depression or anxiety,” reports Douglas Belkin in the Wall Street Journal.  Under federal law, that entitles them accommodations such as more time to take exams or a private, distraction-free testing room.

At Pomona, 22% of students were considered disabled this year, up from 5% in 2014. . . . At Hampshire, Amherst and Smith colleges in Massachusetts and Yeshiva University in New York, one in five students are classified as disabled. At Oberlin College in Ohio, it is one in four. At Marlboro College in Vermont, it is one in three.

Disability diagnoses are way up at flagship state universities, but haven’t caught up to elite private colleges, reports Belkin.

More than a decade ago, the College Board, which administers the SAT and PSAT among other tests, stopped alerting colleges when students received extra time, and the numbers who requested it began to increase. From 2010-11 to last year, the number of accommodations requests jumped 171%, while the number of people taking the exams increased 22%. Last year, 94% of those requests were approved.

Wealthier students are more likely to receive accommodations, which require a  than students from low-income families, said special-education attorney Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, who warned about Disabling the SAT in 2003.

Giving some test takers extended time is “like lowering the basket from 10 feet to eight feet; you’re changing the game,” she told the Journal. “The reason we pay all this money for the test is so that we can compare someone from South Dakota to someone from California. If the test is no longer standardized, then what are we paying for?”

Friedman suggests making the SAT and ACT untimed tests for everyone. If that’s not feasible, she calls for letting all students — not just those with a disability — choose whether to take extra time, knowing scores earned under nonstandard conditions will be reported to colleges.

Depression diagnoses are soaring among young people, according to Blue Cross/Blue Shield. From 2013 to 2016, “depression among the network’s adolescents rose 63 percent; among millennials (ages 18 to 34), 47 percent.”

Anxiety is way up too. “One-third of adolescents report feeling anxiety to a significant degree, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and 62 percent of college students said in 2016 that they feel “overwhelming anxiety;” up from 50 percent in 2011, based on a survey from the American College Health Association,” reports People.

What’s going on?

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