At a Senate hearing Thursday, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate education committee, highlighted the success of programs for students with disabilities at UTC and at Vanderbilt University.
“I hear regularly from parents and students about the program at UTC which is called Mosaic, and it supports students with autism, and it includes credit bearing courses, academic life coaching, peer and faculty mentoring,” Senator Alexander said. “Vanderbilt has a two-year nonresidential certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities called Next Steps, and that includes individualized programs for social skills, physical fitness, and job skills.”
Today’s hearing was a roundtable with college students and experts who spoke about ways to increase college access and success for students with disabilities. The committee is holding a series of hearings about the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Senator Alexander said Thursday that as the committee works on that reauthorization, “we want to make sure that we're sensitive to the needs of students with disabilities.”
He noted that “many of our higher education institutions are already distinguishing themselves as places that are attractive for students with one kind of disability or another,” noting that the American system of higher education allows students the freedom to choose to attend those schools.
“One of the great advantages of our system of higher education because our government support and - about half our students have a grant or loan from the federal government to help them go to college - follows the student to the institution of their choice,” Senator Alexander said. “So, a student with a disability can select a college campus that's a friendly environment.”
Senator Alexander encouraged the roundtable participants to speak to specific federal rules or regulations that get in the way of the success of students with disabilities. He asked: “Have you run into anything on your campuses that the federal government is doing that makes it harder for you to provide the kind of services and support that you'd like to support?”