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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College for all includes low-IQ adults

For example, ClemsonLIFE is a residential program for young adults with IQs from the 40s to 70. “We are training them, we’re teaching them employment skills, we’re teaching them independent skills, but they also have the collegiate experience,” said Erica Walters, the program coordinator.  “You know, [a student might think], ‘My sister went to college, why can’t I?’ Well, you can.”

ClemsonLIFE students ride the bus.

Classes, which include relationship skills, nutrition, riding public transportation and math, can lead to a two- or four-year certificate.

Many students have part-time jobs, writes Glatter. “Just like other Clemson University students,” ClemsonLIFE participants hang out in downtown pizza parlors and cafes and shop at “campus-apparel shops with entire closets-worth of Tiger-themed clothing.”

The Higher Education Opportunities Act, which passed in 2008, change eligibility rules for Title IV financial-aid dollars, writes Glatter. “The law waived certain restrictions—specifically that a student must have earned a high-school diploma and be matriculating toward a degree—to qualify for federal money.”

Think College, which specializes in “college options for people with intellectual disabilities,” estimates there were 149 programs at two-year, four-year, and trade schools before the law changed; the number has grown by 77 percent in eight years.

Some of the programs are located at community colleges or job-training centers, which help the disabled work on life skills and improve their employment prospects at a relatively low cost. Providing a residential “college experience” is expensive. Should it be funded by federal higher education aid? It’s not higher education.

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