One postsecondary option is community college. Community colleges are strategically located to provide a college within easy commuting range.
The community college student population can be divided into several broad categories:
Students who choose to pay less for the first years of school by living at home. They plan to transfer to a four-year college or university beginning their sophomore or junior year of college.
Students working toward an associate's degree.
Students who are taking a few classes and trying to establish their educational goals.
Married students and single parents. Many are taking classes part-time or in the evening.
Students with a special need who are seeing if college is right for them.
There are many benefits to the student with a disability in this kind of postsecondary program.
Testing and Developmental Classes
To enter most community colleges (even for a summer course) students are required to provide one of the following:
Scores from the ACT or SAT college tests.
A transcript of previous college coursework.
Current college enrollment information. This would be the case for a student who is enrolled in a four-year college or university but would like to take community college classes during the summer.
Complete a college skills/placement test on the community college campus.
If no other documentation is provided, the student will take the community college skills/placement test to determine the student's knowledge of math, Reading, and English.
Prior to the student's scheduled test, she should contact the testing office or the office that provides support services for students with disabilities to request needed accommodations. Accommodations for such testing might include an interpreter for the deaf or a reader for a student with a learning disability. Readers are not used for the Reading tests.
If her scores fall below a specified level, she will be required to take developmental courses to boost her skills in these subjects and therefore increase her chances for success in college coursework. Otherwise, the student may be placed in college-level coursework to begin.
If a student is required to take developmental courses, those credits and grades will count toward her community college Grade Point Average (GPA). They will not, however, count as degree requirements. A student who tests into a developmental English course will still have to take the English course requirements for her degree in addition to the developmental English coursework.
Any college or university receiving money from the government is required to offer support services for students with disabilities. The services a student can use depend on the documented needs of the student. (See College — Educational Accommodations later for more information.)
Many students with disabilities recognize additional benefits of attending a community college. Many live in apartments and enjoy independence that they did not have as a high school student.
Socialization is another benefit of community college. Students have the opportunity to meet non-disabled adults from across the community. Often, the group of peers with the same disability is larger than it was in high school as multiple schools feed into the community college.
Increased contact with others with similar needs promotes opportunities for campus and community awareness. Many community colleges host a Disability Awareness Day for this purpose.
Some students will be able to reach their career goals with an associate's degree. An associate's degree can be appealing because it can be obtained in two years and allows the student to enter the workforce quickly. Many certificate programs also are available for completion in one year if the student is attending full-time.
Many students feel that it's logical to attend a community college, receive an associate's degree, and then transfer to a four-year college or university. In some instances, students (and their families) can save money if the student lives at home the first two years, and only pays for housing for the remaining two years. Often community college campuses are small, and students may get more personal attention from community college faculty and staff.
There are “safe courses” to take at a community college. Included in this list are developmental classes (which are not considered to be degree requirements), freshman-level English classes, psychology, and sociology. To be sure, talk directly with an academic advisor from your student's four-year college or university.
There are considerations in transferring from a community college to a four-year institution. Some general education classes do not transfer. It seems like a course in civilization would be recognized at any postsecondary institution, but that is not necessarily the case. It is quite possible for a student to earn an associate's degree only to find that some of his courses will not transfer to a four-year institution.
The safest way to ensure that course credit will transfer from a community college to a four-year college or university is to work directly with an academic advisor from the four-year institution. Although academic advisors at community colleges have information about many four-year programs, information changes quickly. They may not be aware if a policy has changed.