Abstract

Financial, legislative, and philosophical support for postsecondary education (PSE) programs for individuals with intellectual disability has resulted in great increases in the number of such programs across the country. Directors of new PSE programs have few research-based guidelines to provide direction for integrating programs within colleges or universities. In this study, we survey administrators of PSE programs for individuals with intellectual disability across the United States in order to identify perceptions of supports and barriers encountered during program development. We also investigated if these supports or barriers changed over time or varied according to type of program. Results suggest that most perceived barriers and supports, with the exception of funding issues, improved over time. Further, there was a significant difference in perceived support from six of the nine identified institutions of higher education IHE collaborative partners from the inception of the program to the present time.

Introduction

In the past 2 decades, postsecondary education (PSE) programs for individuals with intellectual disability have gradually emerged at colleges and universities. The term PSE refers to educational opportunities after high school and includes technical schools as well as colleges and universities. Access to PSE typically was not available to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) because they did not meet the criteria for traditional matriculation and the typical college experience was not determined to be a match for the levels of support required for many individuals with IDD to achieve good adult outcomes.

The recent influx of PSE programs for individuals with IDD has been supported in the United States by both social and legislative initiatives. For example, in 2010, financial support in the form of grants for the development of PSE programs was made available through the Office of Postsecondary Education, while the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) provided financial support to prospective students through eligibility for student grants (e.g., Federal Pell Grants) and work-study opportunities (Grigal et al., 2013). National organizations, such as Think College, served to consolidate federal and state initiatives and support educators and families in the movement towards college opportunities for individuals with IDD (Kleinert, Jones, Sheppard-Jones, Harp, & Harrison, 2012). Preliminary research associating postsecondary experience with improved adult outcomes provided additional momentum for program development (Grigal et al., 2013; Uditsky & Hughson, 2012).

Today, PSE programs for individuals with IDD are found in community or technical colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and large research universities. The majority of programs provide a postsecondary experience designed for students who have exited their high school programs. Approximately a third of existing PSE programs address a dual enrollment option, in which students ages 18-21 remain enrolled in high school while they attend college (Grigal, Hart, & Weir, 2012; Think College, 2013). There are three types, or models, of PSE programs typically described in the literature: the substantively separate model, the mixed or hybrid model, and the inclusive, individualized support model (Grigal, Dwyre, & Davis, 2006). In substantially separate models, the students' courses and social activities are located on campus, but their courses are mainly separate from the rest of the student population and focus on instruction in life skill areas. In the mixed/hybrid model, students participate mainly in inclusive academic coursework and social activities, yet receive additional separate academic or life skill support as necessary. Finally, the inclusive, individual support model provides individualized support for activities and coursework that all take place in inclusive settings.

Grigal, Hart, and Weir (2011) identify eight areas of quality practice for PSE programs included in the Think College standards: academic access, career development, campus membership, self-determination, integration with college systems and practices, coordination and collaboration, sustainability, and ongoing evaluation. Preliminary research suggests some program standards are associated with improved adult outcomes (Lynch & Getzel, 2013).

Currently, there are over 220 PSE programs across the United States. Most of these programs have been created in the past decade (Grigal et al., 2013; Think College, 2013). In spite of the growing numbers of PSE programs, there is little available information that describes the challenges and supports facing those individuals or entities interested in beginning and developing new postsecondary programs. When surveyed, higher educators ask for both research-based strategies for developing PSE programs and examples of model programs to assist them in program development (Mock & Love, 2012). Many schools are still struggling with how to integrate new PSE programs into the college or university setting. Yet, there are few, if any, research-based guidelines to help program developers prepare and plan adequately for the postsecondary programs. Program directors must rely, therefore, on the limited descriptions of challenges and supports experienced by other programs (Thoma et al., 2011).

Some PSE program directors have published narratives of the evolution of their programs or case studies of their current programs and identified both challenges and supports they found during the process (Folk, Yamamoto, & Stodden, 2012; Hafner, Moffatt, & Kisa, 2011; Neubert & Redd, 2008). Others have summarized challenges faced during program development and provided suggested strategies for negotiating these challenges (Plotner & Marshall, 2014; Thoma et al., 2011). From these descriptions, several areas have been identified as key concerns that emerge as new PSE programs are proposed and implemented in college settings. These areas include existing university policies and procedures for acceptance and matriculation, financial support and funding, residential options, acceptance of students with IDD by faculty and students, opportunities for inclusion in nonacademic activities, availability and accessibility of courses, faculty willingness to teach courses including students with IDD, and student safety. Arguably, all of the facets of PSE programs have been raised as potential barriers or sources of support by one program or another, as educators attempt to develop and sustain PSE programs in institutions of higher education (IHEs). Folk, Yamamoto, and Stodden (2012) discuss the importance of clearly defining and advocating for a definition of inclusion that represents the vision of the program, so that all members of the college community are working towards recognition and awareness of ideally inclusive communities. Their recommendation is to lead with a clear vision as supports are strengthened and barriers addressed.

The experiences programs have published vary significantly. Reports of early programs speak to the importance of factors such as support from the college administration for program sustainability and the need for adequate support and preparation of faculty. They also address possible barriers in the form of preconceived attitudes, financial aid, and the lack of available supports from peers (Getzel, 2008; Neubert, Moon, & Grigal, 2004; Neubert & Redd, 2008; Stodden & Whelley, 2004). Later program descriptions, not surprisingly, echo many of these same factors. Kleinert and colleagues (2012) identified perceptions by the college community of the limited ability of individuals with IDD to contribute to that community as one of the greatest barriers to inclusive PSE programs. They also report the chief concern of college administrators is the extent to which a PSE program will burden college faculty. Haffner, Moffatt, and Kisa (2011) describe the importance of a clear admission process, administrative support, and communication with housing to the current success of their PSE program. They referred to peer mentors as the greatest support for students' inclusive college experience, and faculty support as the foundation for student success. These authors reported that finding faculty receptive to including PSE students in their courses was one of the easiest steps in their course selection process. Uditsky and Hughson (2012), while stressing the importance of advocacy and of including faculty in decision making to solicit buy-in, reported significant support for their PSE program at all levels—administration, faculty, and students.

In addition to individual program descriptions, survey and qualitative research has been conducted in some of the areas targeted as potential roadblocks for upcoming PSE programs. Most of this research has included interviews of stakeholders throughout the college or university. Like the program descriptions, however, most of this research has been conducted within individual PSE programs rather than across programs. Studies primarily address the attitudes or perceptions of faculty and students towards the inclusion of students with IDD in their classes and school activities.

Causton-Theoharis, Ashby, and DeClouette (2009) interviewed staff, professors, and students about the benefits of and obstacles encountered by the PSE program at one university. Their results indicated that benefits included attitude changes and social opportunities, while obstacles included reluctance on the part of faculty, inaccessibility of some courses and social activities, and logistical elements of scheduling and registration. Although faculty reluctance was identified as a barrier, the faculty interviewed in this study were open to and supportive of the PSE program; their reluctance stemmed from fear that they were not adequately trained or qualified to work with students with IDD. O'Connor, Kubiak, Espiner, and O'Brien (2012) also reported strong support from faculty and a willingness to be flexible in course delivery in a qualitative study conducted at a university in Ireland. The researchers reported that program support was built on a strong foundation of social justice embraced by the faculty interviewed. Westling, Kelley, Cain, and Prohn (2013) found typical peers to be very positive about their experiences with individuals with IDD in the PSE programs. They also found a relationship between the typical students' knowledge of disability and positive statements about students with disabilities.

A number of studies were conducted in the form of surveys or interviews with stakeholders in order to identify and describe current or future barriers, or to develop a vision and plan to guide the development of PSE programs in IHEs. Mock and Love (2012) interviewed potential stakeholders, including those currently involved in PSE programs in one state. When stakeholders were asked questions related to barriers to current and future PSE program, results indicated concern about the models adopted and the need for more inclusive programs. There was also concern about state policies related to diplomas and the extent to which nonacademic diplomas would compromise students' access to courses and other academic opportunities. Funding was also identified as a major barrier—both in terms of students' abilities to afford tuition and financial contributions of school districts for supporting dual enrolment programs. Neubert, Moon, and Grigal (2004) also conducted a state-level survey. They interviewed public school teachers whose students participated in dual-enrollment PSE programs. Although the questions in this survey did not address supports or barriers, per se, the descriptive data suggested that access to college courses was a limitation of the PSE programs at the time. Smith and Benito (2013) spearheaded the Florida College Collaborative (FCC), which developed a strategic plan used to identify core elements of PSE programs and guide their development. Through this strategic plan, the FCC hopes to develop a research base for evidence-based practice.

Thoma (2013) conducted a qualitative study in which she addressed characteristics of nine programs of different types in the southeastern United States. She reports on the variety of purposes and procedures evident in the various programs, and also identifies some of the barriers and supports yielded by her data. Thoma identified issues or barriers, particularly during program development, with navigating university policies related to student status, admission, and access to academic classes. Her data suggested the importance of administration support and the extent to which helping the administration understand the PSE program resulted in smoother integration into the college environment. Programs also reported flexibility and that challenges and strategies changed over time.

In summary, data on best practices for the development and implementation of PSE programs is largely descriptive and typically reflects one program's experience. In order for students with IDD to have access to programs, the first step is to integrate, successfully and permanently, the programs into college and university communities. A beginning step in collecting and organizing the data on program development is to determine what barriers or supports programs encounter as they interface with colleges and universities, and to see if and how these differ across different types of programs. To date, however, these data have not been collected on a national level, so that it could be used as the foundation to eventual guidelines to program development.

The purpose of this study was to survey all existing non-dual enrollment programs in the United States that are identified as PSE programs for individuals with IDD, in order to gather information about the perceived barriers and supports encountered by the programs during their development and across time. Only programs for students with IDD were included because these programs are relatively new and focus on a population of students typically not eligible for college programs and, therefore, may be challenged during their development. Likewise, dual employment programs were not included because they are officially extensions of high school programs in the college setting and, therefore, not subject to the same issues in terms of funding and programming. In addition to perceived barriers and supports, we asked specific questions related to supports by partners within and outside of the IHE community, and student safety. Through these questions, we will tap into the many components identified by individual programs as obstacles or important areas of support.

Method

Participants and Postsecondary Education Programs

Participants in the current study included 79 PSE directors and coordinators representing 30 states from across the United States. The sampling frame used for this study was obtained from the Think College (2013) web directory (thinkcollege.net), a national resource for students, their families, and professionals regarding college programs for students with IDD. At the time of the current study, the Think College database listed a total of 220 programs; however, only 204 different e-mail addresses were obtained from the directory as there were, in some instances, two programs at the same IHE with various foci, listing only one director/coordinator for contact information. The Think College web directory lists 143 PSE programs that serve individuals with IDD that were non-dual enrolment programs; therefore, the current study yielded a 55% response rate.

The majority of the respondents identified themselves as PSE program directors or associate directors, leading programs that served students at mostly 4-year, community, or technical colleges or institutions. Fifty-four percent reported being primarily responsible for implementation/development of their PSE program, and 23% reported being partially responsible for implementation at the start of the program.

Forty-one percent of the participants reported their programs were in existence for more than 7 years, with 28% in existence between 3-4 years, 17% existing between 5-6 years, and 14% reported being in existence less than 2 years. Further, participants reported having varying numbers of students enrolled in their programs; 31.2% of the programs had more than 26 students, while approximately 46% of programs had between 6 and 20 students (15% with 6-10, 16% with 11-15, and 15% with 16-20).

The 79 participants represented mainly established programs with 6-30 students housed in a range of postsecondary settings, most of which included partial or completely inclusive experiences, while less than half included residential options. A majority of respondents were involved in developing the PSE program, and most of these programs were established with significant support from grant funding.

Instrument

The survey instrument was developed by the researchers specifically for this study utilizing the current literature base. The questions were identified by reviewing studies that reported barriers and supports experienced by new programs and selecting those that appeared in multiple studies (Folk et al., 2012; Getzel, 2008; Hafner et al., 2011; Neubert & Redd, 2008; O'Connor et al., 2012; Plotner & Marshall, 2014; Stodden & Whelley, 2004; Thoma, 2013; Thoma et al., 2011). The survey instrument consisted of four sections and 56 questions used in the analysis. The four sections included a section on program demographics, supportiveness of IHE partners, program barriers, and student safety. Demographic data included two questions about the individual filling out the survey: job title and their role when program was being developed/implemented. There were numerous questions pertaining to the PSE program itself, such as, for example, state where PSE is located, type/model of PSE program, residential option, size of PSE program, primary funding source supporting PSE program, and so on. For the purpose of this article, a fifth section addressing collaborative partnerships outside the IHE was not used in the analysis.

The program supports and barriers sections consisted of 18 questions. Participants were asked to complete a 4-point Likert rating scale (i.e., 1  =  Not at all supportive, 2  =  Limited support, 3  =  Supportive, 4  =  Extremely supportive) on how they felt the PSE program was supported by various IHE offices/departments at both the start of the program and currently. Additionally, participants were asked to complete 10 questions using a 3-point Likert rating scale (i.e., 1  =  Major barrier, 2  =  A small barrier, and 3  =  Not a barrier) regarding barriers to the PSE program at the inception of the program and currently. This section also contained one open-ended question asking participants to describe what they consider to be the biggest barrier to the implementation of the PSE program.

The student safety section included six questions that assessed perceptions of the extent the PSE program implements/considers safety plans. The first question asked if the PSE program accepted students who are over 18 years of age but are not their own legal guardians. Participants were also asked to rate the extent their program infuses student safety-related content across meetings and courses using a 4-point Likert rating scale (i.e., 1  =  All the time, 2  =  Sometimes, 3  =  Seldom, and 4  =  Never). Further, participants were asked if they felt the PSE could place more emphasis on student safety.

Procedures and Data Analysis

Data collection took place during a 4-week period during the fall academic year. An e-mail was sent to all program contact persons and included a letter explaining the purpose of the research, instructions for completing the survey, and a statement affirming participation was voluntary and that all data would be kept confidential. We used several approaches to yield a high response rate. First, the cover letter indicated the first 20 program directors/coordinators to complete the survey would receive a copy of the book LIFE: Learning Is for Everyone. Second, we conducted a drawing where there would be two winners of a $250 gift certificate. Finally, we limited the length of the survey to enable completion in 15 minutes.

Responses were collected using SurveyMonkey and downloaded into IBM SPSS Statistics (Version 22) to facilitate analyzing the survey data. Cases were deleted for the respondents who failed to complete anything other than the demographic section of the survey because relevant information related to the purpose of the survey (e.g., supports and barriers) could not be obtained. Final data analysis was conducted using IBM SPSS Statistics 20. Data analysis included descriptive statistics for the four sections of the survey, including barriers and supports at program implementation, and perceptions of student safety issues. Percentages and means were reported for supports and barrier variables. Also, the nonparametric McNemar's chi-square test for marginal homogeneity was used to determine if a statistically significant difference exists in the distribution of values across university collaborative partners (e.g., administrators, individual faculty, heath services) regarding perceived level of support and for the perceived barriers (e.g., funding, safety) at time of implementation and at present time. For perceived level of support from university partners, no to little support was scored qualitatively as “1” and moderate to high levels of support was scored a “2.” For barriers, a “1” was assigned to not a barrier and “2” was assigned to a small barrier and a major barrier. After each of the collaborative partners and potential barriers were put into dichotomized scores, they were placed in a 2x2 contingency table based on the four distributions:

  • no to little support/not a barrier at program implementation;

  • moderate to high levels support/a small or large barrier at program implementation;

  • no to little support/ not a barrier at current time; and,

  • moderate to high support/a small or large barrier at current time.

We were interested in determining whether perceptions of support and barriers changed from the inception of the program to present time. That is, we concentrated on the respondents in categories (ii) and (iii) and if it was more common for a respondent to be in category (ii) than (iii) and vice versa (Elliott & Woodward, 2007).

Results

Demographic information

As summarized in the participant section, demographic information was obtained through the survey (see Table 1). In addition to providing information for data analysis, this demographic information provides a snapshot of current PSE programs for individuals with IDD. It is interesting to note that the number of PSE programs in the United States that meet the criteria for this study has almost tripled in the past 7 years.

Table 1

Respondent Demographics

Respondent Demographics
Respondent Demographics
Table 1

Continued

Continued
Continued

Potential college/university partner supports

Results from the survey indicating levels of support were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The descriptive statistics (Table 2) show how participants rated level of support of nine potential IHE collaborating partners during program development and how they rated level of support of these partners at the time they completed the survey. Participants reported that all partners had substantially lower ratings of support (i.e., not at all supportive and limited support) during program development than at the present time. Of note are the perceptions of strong support across time of academic departments and individual faculty—both of which are frequently cited by university administrators as potential areas of concern for new programs.

Table 2

IHE Collaborative Partner Support

IHE Collaborative Partner Support
IHE Collaborative Partner Support

Potential barriers

Table 3 shows how the participants rated five barriers (i.e., liability issues, student safety concerns, funding issues, faculty burden, and compromising rigor of institution) at program implementation and at present time. Again, it is noteworthy that the potential barrier of Faculty Burden decreased as a major barrier over time, and that initial concerns related to liability and student safety also were greatly reduced across time.

Table 3

Perceived Barriers to Program Development

Perceived Barriers to Program Development
Perceived Barriers to Program Development

Participants were also asked to respond to one open-ended question regarding what they felt to be the biggest barrier to implementing the PSE program. The answers reflect a multitude of interconnected aspects that hinder the complex process of providing services, educating, networking, and sustaining the programs. A total of 48 barriers were listed. Three barrier domains were listed more than three times by participants: tuition/funding issues (17 times), professor/university buy-in (six times), and collaboration with high schools and adult agencies (seven times). Several other domains were listed by three participants and included: collaborating with university departments, integration into the campus community, and facilitating meaningful work opportunities.

Student safety

Table 4 shows responses to six questions related to student safety. Results indicate that most programs (n  =  67; 92% of respondents) accept students who are not their own legal guardians. Additionally, 90% of the respondents indicated that they discuss campus safety with students all the time or sometimes. Fifty percent of the respondents revealed that they at least all or some of the time have multiple courses for students that infuse student safety, whereas 40% indicated that this never occurs. Interestingly, over half of the respondents (n  =  38; 54%) disagree or strongly disagree that their PSE program could place more emphasis on student safety. These results are substantiated by the data in Table 3, reflecting the perceived reduction in both Liability and Student Safety Concerns as barriers over time.

Table 4

Student Safety Questions

Student Safety Questions
Student Safety Questions

Potential supports and barriers across time and program type

The data on potential supports was analyzed for level of support during “program implementation” data and at “present time.” A nonparametric McNemar's chi-square test for marginal homogeneity was used by the researchers to determine if there were significant differences across the two time points asked in the survey for each of the IHE collaborative partners and for each of the listed potential barriers. Out of the nine tests for perceived levels of support by IHE collaborative partners, six were significant at the p  =  .05 level: University Administration, McNemar x 2  =  4.45, n  =  71, p  =  .03 (2-tailed); Financial Aid, McNemar x 2  =  9.00, n  =  56, p  =  .002 (2-tailed); University Housing, McNemar x 2  =  4.00, n  =  44, p  =  .04 (2-tailed); Admissions Office, McNemar x 2  =  6.00, n  =  58, p  =  .01 (2-tailed); Academic Departments, McNemar x 2  =  8.06, n  =  69, p  =  .004 (2-tailed); and Individual Faculty, McNemar x 2  =  9.00, n  =  71, p  =  .002 (2-tailed). Using McNemar's test, no significant tendency was found for subjects who changed their opinion of level of support from program inception to the time of completing the survey for University Health Services, the bursar's office, and the Student Disability Services Office (see Table 2).

Results indicate a significant difference between four of five of the potential barriers across the two time points targeted in the survey. McNemar results show that IHE Liability (McNemar x 2  =  4.45, n  =  63, p  =  .03 [2-tailed]), Student Safety (McNemar x 2  =  8.33, n  =  73, p < .00 [2-tailed]), Faculty Burden (McNemar x 2  =  6.4, n  =  73, p  =  .01 [2-tailed]); and Will Compromise Rigor of Institution (McNemar x 2  =  6.40, n  =  72, p  =  .01 [2-tailed]) were significantly different at program implementation and current time. Program funding as a barrier was not shown to have a significant difference across two time points (see Table 3).

Discussion

This study was the first study to explore the evolution of support and barriers regarding PSE programs for students with IDD. We surveyed PSE program directors across the country to identify their perceptions of supports and barriers during the beginning and current stage of program implementation. Early research and program descriptions suggest that various programs have encountered a wide range of policies, procedures, and other issues that could affect the establishment and maintenance of PSE programs. Also of concern was that, with certain issues such as faculty buy-in or receptivity to the inclusion of students with disabilities in their classes, the nature or quality of the envisioned PSE program would be compromised (Folk et al., 2012; Hafner et al., 2011; Kleinert et al., 2012; Neubert & Redd, 2008).

The results of this study, while presenting only limited data on existing programs, suggest that many of the chief concerns about barriers and supports to PSE programs are addressed or ameliorated once the program has been established and operated for several years. Likely, it is not time itself through which these barriers are addressed, but rather the effort and preparation of program developers tackling initial barriers that allowed them to diminish in influence. This hypothesis reflects research that suggests programs make changes—adjusting over time to address challenges (Thoma, 2013). It is notable that all potential college or university-related sources of supports were perceived as more supportive now than at the program's inception. This information is heartening to those beginning new programs; it also provides supporting evidence for colleges and universities worried about issues such as faculty burden or peer receptivity. In some ways, these data support what we know about inclusion at all levels—familiarity reduces both fear and resistance.

The most encouraging finding, particularly in terms of developing and convincing colleges to embrace both hybrid and individual support models, is the extent to which program directors perceived faculty as supportive—either as individuals or collectively. Only 3% of PSE directors identified faculty burden as a major barrier to their program at the present time, while 88% rated individual faculty members as supportive or extremely supportive at the present time and 76% of academic departments were currently rated as supportive or extremely supportive. As noted in the literature review, individual program reports on faculty enthusiasm and participation were somewhat equivocal at first, but it is highly likely that, nationwide, efforts to support and educate faculty have addressed many concerns (Causton-Theoharis et al., 2009; Haffner et al., 2011; O'Connor et al., 2012) As also indicated in the literature, faculty support was identified as a strength, particularly when supported by preparation and participation in faculty-related decisions (Uditsky & Hughson, 2012).

The one persistent and consistent barrier identified in this study is funding. This finding reflects a dominant concern in the literature (Mock & Love, 2012). The issue of funding is a fundamental concern to new programs. Over 50% of the program directors participating in this survey reported that their primary funding source currently is external money—a combination of grants (41.4%) and private contributions (12.9%). Because PSE programs are typically self-supporting (e.g., not funded through the host college or university) the persistent issue of funding may spell life or death for some PSE programs. Grants and private contributions are time-limited, so access to dependable and permanent funding sources is critical to the survival of programs. One solution to the funding problem is for programs to get support from tuition charged to their students—tuition that may far exceed the amount charged to typical college students. The unhappy consequence of this solution is that it limits the number of students who have access to PSE and places a high financial burden on families. Financial support for individuals with IDD has grown in recent years, and students in PSE programs have access to scholarships and college-tagged state funds available to all college-bound students. In 2013, South Carolina legislation obligated approximately $200,000 a year to students with IDD who have financial need to attend a PSE program in South Carolina. Yet, to make PSE accessible financially for all students, program administrators struggle to find more palatable alternatives. A more desirable and permanent solution is for colleges and universities hosting the PSE programs to embrace the mission and importance of PSE programs for individuals with IDD and to invest in related faculty and staff to ameliorate costs and make tuition more affordable for all prospective students.

A finding surprising to us was the low profile of student safety in the reported barriers or concerns related by program developers. Although not highlighted in the research, student safety is alluded to under the umbrella term “liability” in the literature, and surfaced extensively in our own experience with parent interviews and in negotiations with university legal representatives and housing. Yet program administrators did not report student safety as a barrier that continued in intensity over time, and almost half reported satisfaction with the level to which student safety is addressed in their programs (47%). It appears that the multiple orientation meetings reported to address student safety (90% reported meeting often or frequently) were sufficient for the programs (50%) that did not address safety in separate courses. Further analysis of these results or additional research specifically related to size of institution, type of program, and residential status might reflect differential responses. Student safety is always a concern for college administration and this should be no different for students with IDD; however, there is no evidence to support that students with IDD are likely to be less “safe” than peers.

Although there were some very interesting findings that were gleaned from this study, there are several noteworthy limitations that should be considered. First, the survey was retrospective in nature. We asked PSE administrators about support and barriers at the current time as well as at the program implementation, which likely occurred years prior. The study would have been strengthened by instead disseminating the survey at the two time points. Further, the amount of time that elapsed between the two data points varied by program and should also be considered. Second, changes in programs themselves between these two points are highly relevant to the issue of changes in options for students; however, data were not collected to capture such changes. Finally, regarding perceived support from IHE collaborative partners, data were collected only from PSE program administrators and not associated partners within each of the IHE collaborative partners.

Conclusions and future research

The study was designed to survey existing PSE programs for individuals with IDD to identify national patterns in barriers and supports experienced by these programs across time and program type. The results suggest that, while a range of barriers and supports were identified, particularly in the initial phase of program development, support became more evident over time and barriers, with the exception of funding, became less of a consideration. PSE programs for students with IDD are still in their infancy at many IHEs and initial barriers and resistance often is anticipated by prospective directors. This study suggests that programs are finding ways to bring the college or university community together over time and that, the longer a program exists, the more support it garners from offices within the university structure. Another, less optimistic possibility is that programs are compromising their initial inclusive goals so as to reduce the effects of barriers; however, there is no evidence to lead to this conclusion.

This survey was an attempt to gather preliminary data that could be used to eventually develop evidence-based guidelines to assist new and future programs become included in IHEs. Future research will address specific strategies PSE programs employ to combat resistance, solicit support, and overcome barriers. In addition, there is a clear need for research that focuses on program quality and strengthens the link between program elements or standards and improved student outcomes (Lynch & Getzel, 2013; Thoma et al, 2011; Uditsky & Hughson, 2012). Further, research soliciting responses directly from IHE collaborating partners (e.g., individual faculty and IHE administrators) is needed to support this study's findings. Future research should also explore the influence of program characteristics, such as type of program, length of program, and residential options, on the perceptions of program supports and barriers.

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Author notes

Anthony J. Plotner and Kathleen J. Marshall, University of South Carolina.