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2015-July 23
by Nick Randell, Program Officer

On June 16th I had the pleasure of attending Think College's 2015 Capacity Building Institute in Boston. I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about how to advance the cause of inclusive college opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. I was in very good company. My fellow panelists included Sharon Lewis, Principal Deputy Administrator for Community Living and a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services on Disability Policy and Ron Marlow, Massachusetts Undersecretary for Workforce Development, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

Think College is a program of the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston. It is national in scope and promotes the broadest possible expansion of college and university access to people with intellectual disabilities. A recent documentary, Rethinking College, delivers a powerful testimony to the importance of this cause:

The day in Boston celebrated a lot of progress in the field of inclusive post-secondary education. 

Since 2004, when inclusive college programs were virtually non-existent:

  • The number of University programs has grown from 25 to 240
  • Federally-funded demonstration projects have provided over 1,800 students with inclusive educational opportunities
  • Standards are emerging for successful programs
  • Employment supports have become a key component of the inclusive college experience

But there is still room for improvement. While there are now 240 university-based programs, this represents a small percentage of the 7,000 two and four-year colleges/universities in the country. The most compelling arguments for inclusion come from the students themselves. The panel discussion was followed by a talk, given by Max Orland. Max had the opportunity to attend the University of Delaware. He is now an employee of his favorite sports team, the Boston Red Sox. Here is a link to a video of Max's presentation. And here is a transcript of his talk.

Tower is providing matching funding for a federal innovation grant awarded to Think College. The project is testing the effectiveness of a program model that enrolls students with intellectual disabilities in college while they are still in high school. Students are supported in both academic and career development pursuits.


Photo attribution - ThinkCollege Facebook Photos

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