By Bob Katzen

The Higher Education Committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow students with intellectual disabilities or autism to attend all 29 state universities in order to gain skills necessary to work and live independently in the community. Eligible high students would have to be 18 to 22 years old, have not passed MCAS, and be eligible for special education services; or high schoolers aged 20 to 21 who have passed MCAS but are still eligible for special education.

The Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative administers this program. Its website says, “Evidence shows that students benefit academically and transition to young adulthood more readily when they have the opportunity to engage in all college-related activities (e.g., establishing new social networks, participating in campus-wide events, learning to use public transportation to and from campus, completing course assignments, obtaining employment) rather than staying at high school. Student participation in this grant program may be incorporated into a student’s transition program, as determined through the school district’s special education process.”

“Students with intellectual disabilities throughout Massachusetts and the rest of the country have demonstrated the tremendous value of participating in college,” said Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), the sponsor of the bill. “When barriers are removed allowing students to audit classes and participate in campus activities, students thrive, exceeding our expectations. National research data indicates that over 65 percent of adults with intellectual disabilities who attended college were able to find paid employment, compared to an employment rate of 17 percent for those who did not.”

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