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What about college? Can students keep their IEPs?

| Feb 4, 2021 | Education Law |

More and more students choose to attend colleges and universities each year. And in the 2015-2016 school year, 19.4% of students attending college reported that they had a disability.

Both students with disabilities and their parents are happy to hear about this increase as they move forward with their dreams of learning and pursuing their passion. However, it is common for California families to wonder: will a student’s individualized education program (IEP) transfer to their college education?

Accommodations are available – but not under IDEA

The short answer to that question is no. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) only applies to primary and secondary education – or elementary and high school. Colleges are not subject to the same rules under IDEA. Therefore, students cannot obtain an IEP in college.

However, that does not mean that students cannot obtain accommodations. Colleges are not subject to IDEA, but they still must meet conditions under federal civil rights laws. This means that colleges must ensure access to physical locations and education for all students. They must also protect students against discrimination.

Additionally, nearly all colleges provide adjustments for students with disabilities, often including:

  • Centers for tutoring and support
  • The use of note-takers in class
  • Recording lectures for reference
  • The ability to take exams in different rooms

Even with these adjustments, many students report that colleges still have work to do when it comes to ensuring access and providing services for students with disabilities.

Obtaining adjustments can be more challenging in college

Since colleges do not fall under the terms of IDEA, it can be more challenging to obtain academic adjustments that an IEP might provide. Students might face more challenges for a few reasons, including:

  • Colleges require students to register and provide evidence of their disability in order to get academic adjustments
  • Students must also apply for accommodations separately from their application for enrollment
  • Additionally, the definitions of disability and the services provided can vary significantly by school

Even though students cannot transfer their IEPs to their college careers, they still have the rights to adjustments that accommodate their learning differences and needs. Families and students alike should ensure they understand their rights as they move forward into the world of postsecondary education.