C. THOMA ET AL.
vided insight into current practices in the field as well as the
challenges to increasing the access to postsecondary education
for students with ID, as discussed by this group of key stake-
holders. However, these are initial findings and point to the
need for further research that includes a range of data collection
strategies to further expand the research on postsecondary edu-
cation for students with ID.
Future studies can and should include multiple data collec-
tion methods including an opportunity to observe current prac-
tices and conduct follow-up interviews with participants to
enhance the credibility of these findings. Despite these limita-
tions, the findings of this study do provide a starting point for
understanding what is happening in a field where there does not
exist a significant evidence-base to guide current practice.
As the field of PSE for persons with ID currently exists there
is a rich mix of programs, from programs serving one or two
students to 150 students, in vast range of learning environments,
and using a variety of instructional and programmatic practices.
The current heterogeneity of the PSE programs lends itself to a
lack of clarity concerning common characteristics amongst
programs. Group participants called for an “organizing of the
fruit salad” that is these PSE programs. The data has truly
brought to light how little communication there is among the
variety of PSE programs and the critical need to supplement the
various model programs in existence with systematic, highly
rigorous research studies. In order to build this newly devel-
oped field, programs need to have a common language by
which to communicate and common goals to work towards.
There is also an intense need for programs to share successful
strategies with others in the field. It is only through this active
collaboration that the field will gain cohesion.
Second, this investigation has brought to light how important
it is for the field of PSE for individuals with ID to clearly iden-
tify their anticipated outcomes and collect data to analyze their
success in achieving them. To create sustainability of this
movement, the field needs to be able to directly link these PSE
programs to improved employment, income, independent living
skills, and self-determination at a minimum. Understanding
how to measure the impact of the PSE programs is essential.
The field needs to continue to discuss what outcomes are de-
sired out of the PSE experience for individuals with ID, as well
as how those variables can be measured.
As this field is growing and developing, funding is crucial. In
the United States current economic situation there are substan-
tial cuts underway, particularly in the Fund for the Improve-
ment of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) programs in OPE.
The Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with
Intellectual Disabilities’ (TPSID) are very labor intensive. Indi-
vidual support professionals are needed in greater numbers,
services need to be provided to very small groups of students,
and often the investment in learning technology is substantial.
Funding will always impact these PSE programs and consider-
ing how to braid multiple funding sources may provide the
necessary supports to maintain these programs. Advocates in
the field need to articulate to multiple agencies and stake-
holders how vital funding is to providing equal access and par-
ticipation for person with ID into PSE.
However, continued funding may not come without under-
standing the potential outcomes of these PSE programs, and
understanding doesn’t come without research. Continued re-
search in this area is essential for the production and dissemina-
tion of knowledge about PSE for individuals with ID. Research
should truly drive this growing field as we gain knowledge of
effective practices and services for people with ID in PSE. To
create a truly sustainable field we need to ask, research, and
understand a variety of key questions including: What should a
PSE program encompass? How will outcomes be measured and
documented? How can information be shared? and How can the
best programs be replicated?
There is growing interest in providing PSE for students with
ID, as evident in the inclusion in the Higher Education Act of
2008, the funding of programs through the Transition Postsec-
ondary programs for Students with ID (TPSID) from the Office
of Postsecondary Education (OPE), and the continued growth
in participation in subsequent conferences on PSE. These pro-
grams provide an opportunity to learn from experience, and
movement forward will occur through continuing to fund such
programs while continuing dialogue as a means of learning
from each other and sharing program evaluation information
describing what is working as well as challenges encountered.
These PSE programs require enough time and monetary re-
sources to implement a full array of services, to improve the
implementation of those services, and to determine the impact
and outcomes from this vastly different range of services.
Lastly, there is a need to conduct rigorous research in the field
to provide the conclusive evidence that program developers and
funders can use to continue to move the field forward and im-
prove the otherwise abysmal outcomes for individuals with ID.
This study highlights the recommendations of key stake-
holders in the field of PSE for students with ID in 2009. Since
that time, a number of these recommendations have been im-
plemented. Annual conferences on PSE for students with ID are
held annually at George Mason University, serving as a mecha-
nism for program staff to share their experiences, policies, and
procedures with each other. Colleagues at the University of
Minnesota have taken on the task of creating a taxonomy to
better understand a variety of program characteristics including:
number of participants, types of coursework, types of accom-
modations and supports, and outcome measures (Institute on
Community Integration, 2011). Other colleagues at the Univer-
sity of Massachusetts at Boston, under the auspices of a training
and technical assistance project called Think College have de-
veloped a set of quality indicators used to help guide PSE pro-
grams to implement recommended practices to increase student
participation/inclusion on college campuses (Grigal, Hart &
Weir, 2011). And research across programs has begun through
a variety of different studies. However, despite the advance-
ments in the field, the recommendations of these stakeholders
continue to be relevant and provide impetus for increased
funding for model program development as well as research.
This paper is intended to promote the exchange of ideas
among researchers and policy makers. The views expressed in
it are part of ongoing research and analysis and do not neces-
sarily reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Educat ion.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.