Meeting of the Board of Regents | July 2003
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents
Lawrence C. Gloeckler
TITLE OF ITEM:
Postsecondary Education and Students with Disabilities
DATE OF SUBMISSION:
June 30, 2003
RATIONALE FOR ITEM:
Continued improvement of access to and success in postsecondary education for students with disabilities
In the fall of 1998, the Board of Regents and the State Education Department, in partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY), The City University of New York (CUNY), the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (cIcu) and the Association of Proprietary Colleges (APC), convened a Task Force to review how well colleges and universities were serving students with disabilities, identify gaps, and recommend strategies to increase access, opportunity, and success.
In March 2000, the leaders of the higher education sectors and the Board of Regents endorsed the goals of the Task Force report, Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Disabilities, and committed to work together to achieve those goals. The goals of the Task Force report are provided in Attachment A. The Task Force reported on critical issues that should be the cornerstone for collective efforts to improve access and success of students with disabilities in postsecondary education. Some key issues include:
- Both parents and postsecondary institutions indicate the need for better coordination between the secondary system and the postsecondary system related to transition planning. Many students arrive on campus without transition plans and as a result are well into their academic career before the colleges and universities even have an opportunity to identify the students� needs.
- Faculty and staff need to have ready access to resources that will enable them to teach and work more effectively with students with disabilities.
- Campus-wide technology that meets universal standards and enables students with disabilities to be successful in their coursework and fields of study needs to be made available.
- The New York State postsecondary education community should foster the development of partnerships with community-based organizations to offer a full range of services and technical assistance to students with disabilities, their families and secondary and postsecondary education institutions.
- The higher education community should advocate for State financial aid to assist institutions in initiating and/or improving services for students with disabilities on their campuses.
In 2001, Department staff and representatives of the four higher education sectors formed a work group to begin to address the issues identified in the Task Force report. It became evident to the work group that the availability of financial resources to assist colleges and universities to better serve students with disabilities was a paramount concern. Existing resources to meet the needs of these students were very scarce, especially in the proprietary college sector. Colleges with little experience in serving physically- and learning-disabled students were justifiably worried about costs related to effectively serving a more challenging student population.
The initial focus of the work group was to draft legislation to provide additional resources to all four sectors to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The resulting Regents priority legislative proposal (A-7519/S-3793) would provide the State�s colleges and universities with an additional $15 million in the first year and $30 million per year for the succeeding four years to improve the access and success of students with disabilities in postsecondary education.
At the same time, the higher education sectors and individual colleges across the State began to address the need to improve services for students with disabilities. Department staff has met periodically with representatives of CUNY and SUNY on initiatives that they have undertaken over the past few years.
In March and April 2003, the Board of Regents discussed the Bulletin of the Statewide Plan for Higher Education. Included in the Bulletin was the following Regents Priority for students with disabilities:
The Regents ask institutions to focus their master plans on access and success for their students who have disabilities. The Regents will work with the higher education community to assure that institutions have adequate financial support to maintain and initiate appropriate programs and services for these students.
Institutions� master plans, which are incorporated into the Statewide Plan for Higher Education, are the appropriate vehicle to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are integrated into the overall mission and strategic planning for each institution. This will be the first Statewide Plan (2004-2012) since the endorsement in 2000 of the Task Force report by all four sector leaders in higher education and the Board of Regents.
At the July meeting of the Board of Regents, we will discuss some of the issues that are being addressed by the postsecondary community and the State Education Department as we move forward to better serve students with disabilities in our colleges and universities.
The issue of serving students with disabilities is particularly timely as data indicate a growth in the number of individuals with disabilities seeking access to postsecondary education. Key data include:
- The number of students with disabilities completing high school and planning to pursue higher education grew by 3 percent from 1999-00 to 2000-01. It is anticipated that, as higher standards continue to be achieved, increasing numbers of students with disabilities will plan to pursue, and will be prepared to pursue, higher education.
- The enrollment of self-identified students with disabilities in higher education programs has been increasing steadily. From 1993 to 2001 the number increased from 24,953 to 36,249.
- 58.3 percent of all full-time, first-time students matriculating in baccalaureate programs in the fall of 1995 earned baccalaureate degrees from the same institution by 2001; over the same period the rate for students with disabilities was 60.6 percent.
Leaders from the higher education community will meet with the Regents in July to discuss some of the important initiatives that are under way to achieve the objectives in the Task Force report and to discuss how the higher education community can work together for the benefit of students with disabilities.
- Dr. Peter Salins, Provost, State University of New York, will primarily address the SUNY-wide initiatives in the areas of faculty development, in-service training for college academic advisors, outreach to students with disabilities by the admissions offices, improved access to information for students with disabilities in written materials and on the Web site, and system-wide standards for library accessibility.
- Dr. Todd Hutton, President, Utica College, will discuss the federal grant awarded to Utica College to provide professional development to faculty to assist them to better meet the needs of students with disabilities, including:
- College faculty, working in collaboration with experts in disabilities and disabilities education, redesigning existing courses or designing new courses that will directly meet the needs of students with disabilities.
- Students with disabilities receiving specialized tutoring by individuals with expertise in working with students with disabilities.
- College faculty receiving training in techniques, strategies and the use of assistive technology and using this technology to enhance the quality of teaching and the performance of students with disabilities.
- Ms. Sandye Anthony-Tobias, Associate Director of Student Affairs, will represent The City University of New York. CUNY has a wide range of academic support services on its campus for all students, including students with disabilities. Ms. Anthony-Tobias will discuss some of the unique challenges in meeting the academic support needs of students with disabilities.
While these and other important efforts are already under way to better serve students with disabilities, there is collective agreement that more needs to be done. The data tell us that students with disabilities can be successful in college. In New York State, the six-year graduation rate in baccalaureate programs and the three-year graduation rate in associate degree programs between all students and students with disabilities are virtually identical. Yet of the 36,064 students with disabilities who attended institutions of higher education in New York State in 2001, 80 percent (28,856) attended only 80 of the 266 colleges in the State. Students with disabilities need to select institutions of higher education based upon their interests not upon access.
The State Education Department is committed to working with the higher education community to increase:
- An institution�s master plan, within the context of its institutional mission, should integrate the needs of students with disabilities for access, academic support, counseling and, where appropriate, assistive technology and modified curriculum.
- The State Education Department will take the lead in sharing best practices on effective programs and services for students with disabilities across all institutions of higher education in the State.
- We all must do a better job in ensuring that relevant information is available to students and parents as they prepare for postsecondary education. Are high school guidance counselors providing needed information in a timely manner? Are parents aware of transition services available for their children? Is college information relating to access and services for students with disabilities easily accessed and understandable? Is the State Education Department doing enough to ensure the flow of this vital information throughout the K-16 educational community? We all must do more.
- Key stakeholders must aggressively advocate for the Regents priority legislative proposal to increase financial assistance for colleges to improve the access and success of students with disabilities. The funds are critically important for colleges, and elected officials must clearly hear the need expressed by the entire higher education community.
- All states are creating initiatives to improve the academic performance of students, including students with disabilities. There will be a national need to address the access and success of students with disabilities in postsecondary education. Congress has begun work on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. We must strongly advocate for increased student financial aid and resources for needed support services to assist students with disabilities. The 2003 edition of "Federal Legislation and Education in New York State" presents a strong starting point for beginning this advocacy on the national level.
- For our efforts to be successful, we must have the support and active involvement of all leaders in higher education. We are strongly encouraged by the commitment of our higher education leaders to date. SUNY, CUNY and many independent colleges have made extraordinary efforts because the leadership demanded it. Many proprietary colleges strongly support this effort, but need State and federal assistance to bring about real change. The State Education Department will keep this initiative as a central point of discussion with the Commissioner�s Advisory Council on Higher Education and will continue to ensure that the Statewide Plan for Higher Education reflects the Regents commitment to students with disabilities in postsecondary education.
The Offices of Higher Education and Vocational Education Services for Individuals with Disabilities will continue to collaborate with the higher education community in advancing this initiative.
Goals of the Task Force Report:
Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Disabilities
Individuals with disabilities, regardless of age, have access to learning opportunities that prepare them for college study and to the tools and resources needed to succeed in postsecondary education settings.
New York State�s colleges and universities commit to expanding access and opportunity for qualified students with identified disabilities, and that commitment includes a powerful push toward the ongoing development of positive campus-wide and faculty-wide attitudes toward the capabilities of students with disabilities.
Faculty and staff have ready access and the incentive to utilize the resources they need to enable them to teach and work more effectively with students with disabilities.
Students with disabilities and institutions of postsecondary education work together to ensure that campus-wide technology meets universal design standards, and that students have ready access to the full range of appropriate assistive technologies they need to be successful in their coursework and general fields of study.
College students with disabilities have access to the full range of strategies, programs, and counseling aimed at developing knowledge and skills to assist them in achieving post-academic success, including satisfying careers and jobs.
The New York State postsecondary education community fosters the development of regional collaboratives and partnerships offering a full range of services and technical assistance to students with disabilities, their families and secondary and postsecondary education institutions.
Accreditation and review bodies continue to develop and enhance standards, policies and procedures for the comprehensive assessment of institutional effectiveness with regard to access to and diversity of programs and services to students with disabilities.
Institutions of postsecondary education, families and students with disabilities have access to a broad array of financial tools to promote success in college.
New York State, through the Board of Regents, establishes a standing Steering Committee made up of leadership of the four university sectors, the State Education Department, and leaders in secondary education to guide ongoing research, policy development and assessment.