Access to Added Financial Resources
State and federal aid can help students with disabilities finance their college costs. Here are some key sources of support.
By Erin Sember
College costs are already hefty, including expenses for tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and various fees and supplies. But, for students with disabilities, expenses may increase even more because of health or medical needs; personal services requirements (attendants and interpreters, for example); and use of assistive devices (hearing aids, prosthetics, magnifiers, and so forth).
Like most students, those with disabilities will be eligible for financial assistance in the forms of grants, loans, work-study arrangements, and scholarships available at federal and state levels. According to George Washington University's HEATH Resource Center's Online Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities, students with disabilities may be able to receive financial assistance and services through their state's vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency, if their disabilities result in significant barriers to employment. VR assists with tuition, room, board, transportation, books, technology, and other expenses.
Some students may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits to offset college costs (see the Social Security disability Web site). Scholarships providing financial coverage for various types of disabilities also are available. A variety of resources and listings on financial aid and scholarships can be found at www.disability.gov
It is important for students with disabilities and their families to be knowledgeable about their rights and responsibilities when preparing for postsecondary education. Information regarding the financial assistance for which they qualify and the reasonable accommodations they should receive is essential for them—and for business officers and student financial services leaders—as they engage in a partnership with your institution with expectations of a successful college experience. The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights Web site offers educational documents and resources that can help you and your institution throughout this process.
ERIN SEMBER is an ADA specialist for DBTAC-Northeast at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.