February 2024
Two young, female college students. They are outside and are wearing name tags. Their t-shirts read "Inclusive U." One of the students has an intellectual disability.

Aiming to boost college options for Minnesota students with intellectual disability, the Institute on Community Integration’s new Inclusive Higher Education Technical Assistance (TA) Center is collaborating with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education as it implements a competitive grant process this spring. The grants will provide up to $1.425 million in the first two years of the program (fiscal years 2024 and 2025) to eligible Minnesota higher education institutions that create or enhance postsecondary education programs providing meaningful credentials upon graduation to students with intellectual disability.

“Universities want to increase enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds, and there is nobody more excluded from higher education than people with intellectual disability and people with disability of any kind, for that matter,” said ICI Director Amy Hewitt.

Established by state statute in the 2023 legislative session, the TA Center is coordinating and providing expertise on Minnesota’s inclusive higher education opportunities and providing information to students with intellectual disability and their families, educators, and state agency staff. It is also collaborating with state education officials on the grant program. Mary Hauff, director of ICI’s Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (MIHEC), is director of the new TA Center.

“We’re optimistic about the enthusiasm we’ve seen thus far for bringing substantially more opportunities for higher education in Minnesota for students with intellectual disability,” Hauff said. “There are a number of colleges and universities that are, in fact, now pursuing inclusive higher ed initiatives on their campuses. And in conversations with the existing programs, we know there is interest in improving and expanding their offerings.”

The TA Center will support colleges and universities to design, implement, and evaluate post-secondary education programs consistent with Minnesota standards that are best-practice, research-informed, and aligned with national accreditation standards.

“They will be truly inclusive programs, where students are part of the fabric of college life and not segregated to separate programs that are limited to teaching life skills,” Hewitt said.

About 1,000 Minnesota students with intellectual disability (ID) complete 12th grade each year, and there are about 5,000 students with ID who are college age. Minnesota’s capacity, however, is limited to about 90 students per year because just three colleges and universities out of more than 200 are designated as Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary programs.

The TA Center builds on work ICI began through MIHEC, establishing learning community and community of practice events to bring parents, educators, and others together to re-imagine higher education for people with intellectual disability in the state.

On February 13 , the center presented a learning community event by Beth Myers of Syracuse University, who leads InclusiveU, a federally recognized model program for college students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Other projects addressing inclusive education at ICI include the National Center for College Students with Disabilities, the only federally-funded national center with information and resources for future and current college students with disabilities; Community-based, Collaborative Transition Model for Minnesota Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a designated Project of National Significance; and the TIES Center, which works with states, districts, and schools to support the movement of students with disabilities, including those with extensive support needs, from less inclusive to more inclusive environments.

Learn more here about upcoming events.