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There Are No IEPs in College!

The Differences in Accommodations Between
High School and College

by Janet Price, Regional Director of Community Education and Transition, CLE Rockville

CLE TutoringIf you’re anything like I was as a parent, by the time your son or daughter is a high school senior, you’ve pretty much got this IEP thing down. You’ve trained for a long-term marathon of supports and services. You can decipher present levels of performance, write goals in your sleep, and remain ever-vigilant to hold the school accountable if they neglect to provide appropriate accommodations. But what happens once you cross the finish line? You may have heard that there are no IEPs in college, but what does that mean?


An IEP falls under IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. IDEA is all about FAPE, Free and Appropriate Public Education, which is an entitlement. But IDEA ends at age 21 or when a student graduates high school, whichever comes first. College is less about entitlement, and all about equal access. A student with a disability in college becomes a “qualified student with a disability.” They must meet the basic requirements necessary for admittance, but once admitted, students are eligible for accommodations that can allow them to access programming in a manner equal to their non-disabled peers and prohibit discrimination due to their disability. Accommodations are not required to produce an identical result or level of achievement; but must afford equal opportunity to obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement.

College Accommodations

What are some common accommodations? Extra time still exists in college, but often that extra time will only be granted in a testing situation. Because of the time limitations of semesters, and because a student is given a syllabus with all of their assignments, they are expected to be able to plan out their assignments so that they are completed in a timely manner. Copies of notes are available as an accommodation, whether through a professor’s power point or a peer note-taker. Course materials must be accessible. Oftentimes, a college will allow priority registration for students with a disability. The list goes on.

Accommodations College Does Not Provide

What goes away under this model is the specialized instruction that may have been part of a student’s high school program. College professors are not required to teach in a way that works with the student’s preferred learning style. They are also not required to change any academic requirements that are:

  • Essential to instruction
  • Necessary for licensing requirements
  • Alter the fundamental nature of a program
  • Present undue financial or administrative burdens
  • Or are considered unreasonable

And although this sounds harsh coming from the protected environment of high school, when you think about it, this model makes sense. A program resulting in a degree or in a license needs to maintain its integrity otherwise that degree or license is rendered meaningless.


Accommodations at CLEAnother difference in college is that students are responsible for self-identifying and contacting Disability Support Services (DSS). They must provide appropriate documentation of the disability, and DSS will determine their eligibility for services. The good news is that this will be much less of a battle than it was in high school – colleges are very willing to provide accommodations. The bad news is that, unlike high schools, which were required to follow the IEP and provide accommodations automatically, in college it is the student who is ultimately responsible for making sure the accommodations are put into place. Once they are found eligible, students receive a letter listing their accommodations, and they must hand this letter to each of their professors, each semester.

There are a lot of stages where this process can fall apart, particularly for a student with challenges in executive function, social communication, and self-advocacy. CLE staff, especially our Academic Coordinators and tutors, provides oversight and support to our students to make sure that all these pieces fall into place. A recent visitor to CLE Rockville exclaimed, “CLE is like college with an IEP!”

Newsletter Articles – June 2016

Empty nest

Congratulations! You did it!! You have just reached a major milestone, and you should be proud of yourself for your hard work to get to this point. You have made the huge decision to let your student leave the nest that you have so carefully and painstakingly built to provide comfort, safety, happiness, and love in order to enter the big, bad world of adulthood.

The idea of your student accomplishing new goals and achieving levels of independence that were previously unimaginable is exciting and what every parent aims for when sending their student to CLE. However, the process can often be a difficult one, especially during the initial transition and during those times when unexpected circumstances arise. Here are some tips to ease the transition and how to handle those challenging situations as they come up.

Jean Handler - CLE Fort Lauderdale

Parents and educators play a huge role in guiding young adults that are entering college. Families should shift the major responsibility of advocating for their child over to their young adult that will be attending college. Parents can teach their children to have a voice and advocate for themselves in the home setting. Furthermore, educators can help transition students at the high school level by preparing them to have their own voice. In college, there are many accommodations that a student with special needs will need to ensure their success. Being your own advocate will help you to stand up for yourself in the future and give you the confidence that you need to become an independent individual.

Keep Calm - Wave Goodbye

Why spend time worrying about learning the skill of how to disengage from conversations when there is enough trouble engaging or initiating in the first place? Because a crucial element of a conversation is not only learning how to disengage from that particular interaction, but also encouraging the other person to engage in conversation with you again at some point in the future.

There are many levels, or variations, to saying good-bye. It can be complicated. There’s the one you give to someone you do not expect to see again, the one you give to someone who has to excuse himself for a moment to deal with something but will be right back, the one you give a parent, the one you give a co-worker. “Have a nice life,” is different from “See you later,” and also from “See you soon,” or even “Call me back when you’re done.”

Graduation from High School

Thinking about what you should do after high school can be both exciting and scary. As we arrive at the end of the school year, most high school seniors are preparing for their next chapter in life. Progressively more high school students with autism and other learning differences are planning to continue their education in post-secondary schools, including vocational and technical schools, two-year and four-year colleges, and universities. This is a new journey of independence, the first time for most students. It may also be the first time when many students will be responsible to advocate for their own needs at school. A student’s ability to advocate for him or herself is critical to succeed at the college level.

The post There Are No IEPs in College! appeared first on College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future.

This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.