Cognitively impaired students cause some to question the meaning, purpose of higher education

The Associate Press (via USA Today) reports:

In years past, college life was largely off-limits for students with [cognitive] disabilities, but that’s no longer the case. Students with Down syndrome, autism and other conditions that can result in intellectual disabilities are leaving high school more academically prepared than ever and ready for the next step: college.

Eight years ago, disability advocates were able to find only four programs on university campuses that allowed students with intellectual disabilities to experience college life with extra help from mentors and tutors. As of last year, there were more than 250 spread across more than three dozen states and two Canadian provinces, said Debra Hart, head of Think College at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, which provides services to people with disabilities…

The infusion of federal money has generated some criticism. Conservative commentator Charlotte Allen said it’s a waste to spend federal tax dollars on the programs and insisted that calling them college dilutes the meaning of college.

“It’s a kind of fantasy,” said Allen, a contributing editor for Minding the Campus, a publication of the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute. “It may make intellectually disabled people feel better, but is that what college is supposed to be all about?”

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