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Preparing Students for Life After Special Education? Here's How Federal Dollars Can Help

New guidance from the U.S. Department of Education spells out how school systems and state agencies can coordinate to help students with disabilities prepare for life after high school.

A 16-page Q & A produced by the agency's special education and postsecondary education offices outlines how schools can use the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and vocational rehabilitation funds to support dual-enrollment programs, create college and transition options for students with intellectual disabilities, and finance other initiatives designed to ease the transition between grades K-12 and postsecondary education and training.

In most cases, to use the federal funds, a student's Individualized Educational Plan team must determine that the dual-enrollment courses or transition programs are necessary to provide a free appropriate public education. When federal IDEA and vocational rehabilitation funds can't be used, the document explains that students apply for individual federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants and work-study opportunities, to pursue postsecondary and dual-enrollment options.

As part of the federal education department's national back-to-school tour, Johnny Collett, the assistant secretary for the office of special education and rehabilitative services, recently visited a program for young students with intellectual developmental disabilities that allows students an opportunity to explore education and employment at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

"The department is committed to ensuring that students and youth with disabilities are held to high expectations and have the resources and supports needed to expand their learning opportunities and prepare them for success in postsecondary education or careers," Collett said in a statement introducing the Q & A.

While high school graduation rates for students with disabilities are on the rise, life after graduation remains a concern. Students with disabilities are less likely to enroll in college or find employment after high school than their peers without disabilities. These students also are more likely than those without disabilities to enroll in vocational schools for postsecondary education and to earn less on the job.

Related Reading

Students Face Uncertain Paths After Special Education

Experience is Key for Special Ed. Students Headed to the Workplace

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