~New report highlights challenges to enrollment and retention among students with disabilities in Florida ~

Tampa, FL– A report released by ENLACE Florida offers recommendations on how Florida can reduce barriers for students with disabilities pursuing higher education. Students with disabilities currently enrolled in institutions of higher education in Florida were surveyed and asked to share systemic challenges they may have faced—both during the enrollment process and today as they pursue success.
Here are the common barriers to enrollment and retention identified by students with disabilities:

Common Obstacles to Enrollment Reported by Students

  1. Students and parents lack of knowledge regarding the documentation and accommodations in institutions of higher education
  2. Students and university personnel lack of knowledge of students and universities regarding providing appropriate accommodations
  3. Non-acceptance by colleges and universities of reports and evaluation regarding disability documentation from pre-K-12
  4. Inaccessibility of online application processes and paperwork or forms
  5. Breakdown of responsibility between pre-K-12 education and adult services during the transition process
  6. Accommodations used by students with disabilities are often not approved and provided by entrance examination (SAT, ACT, GRE) test site
Common Obstacles to Retention Reported by Students

  1. Lack of accommodations approved and/or provided by the university disability resource center and faculty
  2. Faculty lack of knowledge regarding the proper provision of accommodations
  3. Extra time required to complete assignments by students with disabilities using accommodations

Policy Implications and Recommendations

  1. A loose connection between pre-k-12 eligibility and institutions of higher education eligibility procedures exist regarding the documentation of students’ disabilities. Prek-12 documentation is not accepted by the majority of institutions of higher education.
    • K-12 documentation such as existing and current medical, educational, evaluation, and eligibility reports should be accepted.
    • Students in K-12 do not pay out of pocket for evaluations necessary for eligibility as a student with a disability. Students at institutions of higher education are responsible to cover the cost of requested eligibility documents and evaluations. The cost of some documentation is covered by state agencies for individuals with disabilities.
    • A uniform set of documents/evaluations required by state institutions of higher education does not exist, thus creating additional challenges for students transferring between institutions
  2. Inaccessibility to FACTS.org has been reported; ADA compliance
    of this website should be ensured as specified in Section 508 of the

    • The ePEP system should include the unique, additional information needed by students with disabilities; ADA compliance of this system should be ensured as specified in Section 508 of the ADA.
  3. Inaccessibility of online application forms and processes exists on many community college and university websites
    • Increased knowledge of institution web designers would help facilitate this need
  4. Students have reported challenges with testing accommodations for various entrance exams including SAT, ACT, or GRE
    • State Department of Education should make contact with national testing agencies to ensure that test sites provide appropriate testing accommodations requested in advance
  5. State agency services are being accessed by students at a low rate
    • The reason why 70% of the students in this study do not access state agency services needs to be further examined through continuous research and monitoring

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