- Janice Seabrooks-Blackmore, D., Executive Director of the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities at the University of Central Florida
- Drew Andrews, EdD., Assistant Director and Technical Assistance Coordinator, Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities at the University of Central Florida
- Iris Neil, M.Ed., Program Manager, Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities at the University of Central Florida
FCAN host: Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships
During an Oct. 7 FCAN webinar, leadership from the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities (FCSUA) shared information about resources available through FCSUA that support the development of inclusive postsecondary education programs that lead to credentials aligned with a region’s workforce needs.
Get to Know: Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities
The webinar highlighted the Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program (FPCTP) Act, which was signed into law in 2016. The innovative legislation:
- Established FCSUA
- Established the Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Programs (FPCTP) and charged FCSUA with managing the application and approval process.
- Funded scholarships for students to attend approved programs
- Funded start-up and enhancement grants to institutions of higher education (IHE), including universities, state and community colleges, career/tech centers, and private colleges
Among the many supports provided by FCSUA, the center administers the development and enhancement of grants; awards scholarships to eligible students; collects, analyzes, and reports evaluation information on the program and student outcomes; and provides feedback to state legislators on funding and policy needs.
“Whether it’s understanding our application process, making sure you understand the guidelines of the law, or meeting with colleagues across your institution or within the community, we provide support in explaining how this (FPCTP) Act works, and we work with you at each step to help you carry it out,” said Janice Seabrooks-Blackmore, executive director of FCSUA.
Removing Affordability Barriers for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
The number of FPCTP scholarships for students has grown significantly throughout the last four years. During the 2016-17 academic year, 47 scholarships were awarded at $7,000 per student, per year compared to 128 scholarships awarded at $7,000 per student, per year in the most recent 2019-20 academic year.
Additionally, there are FPCTP grants with a maximum three-year, $900,000 award (annual budget up to $300,000) available for higher education institutions looking to build more inclusive supports for students with intellectual disabilities. Institutions have the option of starting a new program, or extending, expanding or improving an existing one. The initial approval is for three years, with renewals approved for five years.
The goal is to provide credentials or industry certifications that serve both students and employers in a community.
“Students must leave with a credential that is meaningful to employers in the area, and will be meaningful when the students apply for work,” said W. Drew Andrews, assistant director and technical assistance coordinator for FCSUA.
Sharing their Knowledge
In addition to technical assistance and webinars, FCSUA has created a Strategic Planning Tool to help institutions plan or improve their programs.
“The strategic planning process guides you through topics and helps you plan, develop, or improve your program by considering things related to sustainability — like funding, program services, collaboration, and institutional commitment,” Seabrooks-Blackmore said. “It’s designed for teams to actually leave with concrete ideas about what they will do next.”
Through its Florida Postsecondary Education Program Planning Institute (FLPEPPI), FCSUA also guides institutions in planning and evaluation through a format that combines elements of a conference with those of an institute.
“The purpose of the institute is to increase understanding of resources available, and to facilitate planning and implementation of the transition program for students with intellectual disabilities in all types of settings,” said Iris Neil, program manager for FCSUA. “Our institute includes time to learn, network, and to plan. We embed collaboration and time to process information.”
FCSUA typically hosts two institutes per year, a mid-year session in June and another in November. The next FLPEPPI is a virtual event scheduled to take place Nov. 17-20. Registration ends October 16.
To learn more about supporting students with intellectual disabilities— or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:
Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.