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The Post-High School Outcomes of Youth With Disabilities up to 4 Years After High School
NCSER 2009-3017
April 2009

Postsecondary Education

As the American economy becomes progressively more knowledge based, attaining a postsecondary education becomes more critical (Carnevale and Desrochers 2003). NLTS2 provides the opportunity to examine the postsecondary education experiences of youth with disabilities who have been out of secondary school up to 4 years, including both those who completed high school (those who graduated, received a certificate of attendance or completion, or who passed a high school exit exam or completed a GED program) and those who did not (dropped out or were permanently suspended or expelled).

  • Forty-five percent of youth with disabilities reported having continued on to postsecondary education within 4 years of leaving high school.
  • Youth with disabilities were reported to be more likely to have enrolled in 2-year or community colleges (32 percent) than in vocational, business, or technical schools (23 percent) or 4-year colleges or universities (14 percent), and of those options, were least likely to have enrolled in 4-year colleges.
  • On average, students with disabilities who continued on to postsecondary school did so within 5 months of leaving high school. Students enrolled in 4-year colleges sooner after high school than they did in postsecondary vocational, business, or technical schools (3 months vs. 7 months).
  • Most students with disabilities were enrolled in postsecondary education programs on a consistent (86 percent), full-time (71 percent) basis.
  • Postsecondary students who attended 2-year colleges were more likely to have been enrolled in an academic than vocational course of study (57 percent vs. 29 percent). Students at all types of colleges focused on a broad range of majors.
  • To receive accommodations or supports from a postsecondary school because of a disability, students first must disclose a disability to their school. Fifty-five percent of postsecondary students who were identified by their secondary schools as having a disability did not consider themselves to have a disability by the time they transitioned to postsecondary school. Thirty-seven percent of postsecondary students with disabilities identified themselves as having a disability and informed their postsecondary schools of their disability.
  • Twenty-four percent of postsecondary students who were identified as having a disability by their secondary schools were reported to receive accommodations or supports from their postsecondary schools because of their disability. In contrast, when these postsecondary students were in high school, 84 percent received some type of accommodation or support because of a disability.
  • Postsecondary students who were given assistance because of their disability received a range of accommodations and supports from their schools. Additional time to complete tests was the most frequently received type of assistance, with 68 percent receiving this type of accommodation.
  • Postsecondary students received help with their schoolwork beyond the support provided by schools because of their disability. Forty-four percent reported receiving some type of help, whether or not the assistance was related to their disability.
  • Most students who received any type of help with their schoolwork reported that these supports were "very" or "somewhat" useful (90 percent) and that they "probably" or "definitely" (86 percent) were getting enough assistance.
  • Eighty-nine percent of students with disabilities who were currently enrolled in postsecondary school reported that they were working toward a diploma or certificate. A total of 29 percent had graduated or completed their programs by the time they left their postsecondary schools.