Using Your 504 or IEP Accommodations in College – Part II



Hi, I’m Sumaiya Olatunde, educational consultant and advocate for H2D Counseling. This is the second part of a two-part series on disabilities and college. Last time, I discussed your educational and civil rights related to disabilities, and introduced some of the different policies, practices and requirements between high schools and colleges. Today, I’ll discuss in more detail appropriate documentation and reasonable accommodations as well as provide useful tips for transitioning to college. The focus will be on learning disabilities and public education, however, much of this information may apply to other disabilities as well as private schools.

Some important differences between high school and post-secondary education are surprising to many people. For example, an IEP does not transfer to post-secondary education because colleges and universities do not fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 or IDEA. Additionally, a 504 plan may not be sufficient enough to be considered appropriate documentation. Your IEP or 504 plan are helpful but not necessarily enough to receive accommodations in college. If you had accommodations for standardized testing, such as the SAT, your documentation may be sufficient because these agencies tend to have stricter documentation standards than high schools. Nevertheless, in some cases, students who receive accommodations in high school and for standardized testing are not eligible for services and accommodations in college. (1)

Appropriate documentation in college is typically a report written by a qualified professional, such as an educational psychologist, who administers neuropsychological and/or psychoeducational tests in order to determine your areas of ability and limitation. Neuropsychological and psychoeducational tests measure such things as achievement, intelligence and behavior, and are designed to demonstrate discrepancies between your capabilities in comparison to your performance as well as that of others who are of similar age and ability. The purpose is to determine if you have a disability and if so what kind. The report on your assessments should indicate when each test was administered, who conducted them, your diagnosis and recommended reasonable accommodations to address your needs. (2)

Your college or university has the right to request a new evaluation based on its policies on recent documentation. These policies vary among schools and depend in part on the type of disability that you have. If you are required to obtain a new evaluation, it will be at your expense; however, you may be able to successfully advocate for an exception or a compromise. This is why it’s important to understand your disability, its impact on you, your educational and civil rights, and your school’s policies.

Some of the accommodations recommended for you in college may be similar to those you received in high school. They may include, extended testing time, priority registration, a reduced course load or course substitutions, note takers, recording devices, a sign language interpreter, assistive hardware and/or adaptive software. Yet, your college is not required to lower or substantially modify essential requirements to course content and curriculum. They also do not have to implement accommodations that will result in an undue financial or administrative burden to them. Moreover, colleges are not required to provide “personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature, such as tutoring and typing.” (3)

Although colleges are not required to provide personal use services and devices, they differ in what they offer students and you should inquire to find out what is available at your particular school. This is also an important consideration when visiting colleges and deciding which institution to attend. At the same time, knowing what to expect is important so that you are prepared and do not demand an accommodation that you are not entitled to receive. You want to try to maintain a positive relationship with your college, the Disability Services Office, and your professors. It’s important to advocate for yourself, and to know when self-advocacy is necessary and appropriate.

Before heading off to college, you’ll benefit from preparing for your transition. Try to learn any necessary skills that you may need for utilizing appropriate assistive technology and for self-advocacy. (4) In addition, contact your college’s Disability Services Office in the summer prior to enrolling. Find out what documentation you must provide in order to receive the accommodations you need to be successful.

If you need a new evaluation or a re-evaluation, try to obtain one while you’re in high school. If you have not completed this process before attending college, the cost to you may be thousands of dollars. Financial aid loans may cover the cost of some or all of the necessary testing, but you’ll have to pay this back eventually.

If you can, complete the eligibility process during the summer, so that you’re able to receive accommodations and services from your first day of classes.

You should also find out which programs and services available to all students you may want to use at your school, such as writing and tutoring centers, departmental and library resources and health services. All of these steps will take time, so start early.

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