Postsecondary education and training is a very critical area of transition. Frequently, people think automatically of college when considering this transition area. However, it is important to think about what postsecondary really means. “Post” means after and “secondary” means high school, so think about this transition area not only as college, but rather as education and training after high school. All students should be encouraged to pursue education and training beyond high school. These plans should be discussed in IEP meetings even before a student enters high school. For students with hearing loss who want to attend college, it is important that the IEP team makes class selections that will ensure a student has the necessary academic skills and coursework to apply and be accepted into higher education.
Postsecondary schools can include vocational and career schools, community and technical colleges, and four- year colleges or universities. Other types of educational training include military training, short-term vocational schools, on-the-job training, apprenticeships, Adult Basic Education (ABE), or community education classes. IEP teams should be prepared to discuss how a student’s academic skills and coursework may impact enrollment in college or other training.
If students are not academically ready for college but desire postsecondary education in the future, teams should discuss the option of Adult Basic Education programs as a way to continue to build academic skills after high school. A wide range of course offerings can be found in adult education programs. Adult/continuing education programs appeal to a variety of learners: those who are studying to take the GED Test; those who need to improve basic academic skills; and those who wish to take a course for self-enrichment. ABE programs provide free instruction in reading, writing, math, and thinking skills to adult learners with deficits in basic academic skills who wish to improve them, whether for functional application or to prepare for college entrance. Some ABE locations have also started offering career-specific pre-occupational training, as well as short-term training for certificates or licenses (for example, boiler’s license or commercial driver’s license).
In addition to meeting academic requirements, students need to have strong self-advocacy, time-management, money management, and independent living skills in order to be successful in postsecondary settings. By using the Postsecondary Competency Skills Checklist, IEP teams can help the students evaluate their readiness for postsecondary settings.
Students with hearing loss who know their rights and responsibilities are much better equipped to succeed in postsecondary settings. Hard of hearing students who may have had limited accommodations in high school often find they need additional accommodations in post high school settings. It is important for these students to develop and practice self-advocacy skills in high school as they will be expected to independently negotiate for needed services and accommodations after high school. This requires knowledge about Section 504, ADAA, reasonable accommodations, providing needed documentation when requesting services and accessing the disability service office on campus.
ADAA mandates documentation of a disability. For hearing loss, this is verified by a recent audiological evaluation. In some situations, documentation may also include a medical doctor’s diagnosis. When there is a secondary disability, such as vision loss, cognitive processing disorder, psychological disorder, etc., specific evaluations, such as medical, psychological or specialist examinations need to be obtained.
Support services personnel for students with disabilities on college campuses have different titles and work out of different offices from campus to campus. Students should ask for the Office for Disability Services or Office for Special Needs. Students should bring a list of questions when meeting with the disability specialist. The Postsecondary Accommodations Checklist in the Teacher Resources section lists accommodations that might be available through a program’s support services.
The determination and responsibility for provision of reasonable accommodations and aids is considered on an individual basis through collaboration between the student, the postsecondary institution’s Disability Services provider, service agency(s), faculty and administration when necessary. The following definitions relate to the educational supports provided in the postsecondary setting:
- Modifications (usually NOT made at the postsecondary level)
- A change in rigor of content
- Allows access to the learning environment
- Auxiliary aid
- Necessary to ensure effective participation.
- Assistive technology
- Computer software and/or adapted equipment.
Attending college can be an exciting and enriching experience. It can also be a costly one. In addition to tuition, fees, books, and supplies, other expenses to think about include room and board, health insurance, transportation, and spending money. Financial aid is available to help students and their families pay for or supplement payment of educational expenses after high school. Common forms of financial aid include grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships. Students with disabilities may also be eligible for disability-related federal and state programs that offer financial support. Many students use a combination of these financial aid resources. In addition, D/HH students can apply for tuition assistance under Minnesota’s Higher Education Finance Bill Section 4 (135A.165) (Deaf Students; Tuition Assistance) if they: attend a Minnesota state college or university or the University of Minnesota; qualify for a state grant or federal Pell grant; and “depend primarily on visual communication”. Students should check with their college’s financial aid office for further information.
It is imperative to remember that financial aid results in a partnership of the student, parents, postsecondary educational institutions, state and federal governments, and/or private organizations. Such a partnership requires cooperation, communication, and an understanding by each of their responsibilities within the financial aid process. The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is a good place to begin your search for financial aid information. The financial aid administrator can tell you about student aid available from your state, the school itself, and other sources. An important first step in acquiring financial aid is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) the year before enrollment.