Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) was joined by Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-05), and Representatives James Langevin (RI-02) and Jared Huffman (CA-02) in introducing the Improving Access to Higher Education Act. This bill, which is part of the ‘Aim Higher’ initiative, would fully address the needs of students with disabilities, and would help improve college access and completion.
“This first of its kind legislation takes a comprehensive approach to providing students and institutions with improved training, greater resources, and expanded services—bringing us one step closer to ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to earn a degree, find a job, and achieve the American Dream. I am honored to join Ranking Member Scott and my colleagues in spearheading this important effort for our students,” said Congressman DeSaulnier.
“Since the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – federal law has been clear that individuals with disabilities must have equitable access to education,” said Ranking Member Scott. “Thanks to the IDEA and the ADA, we have more students with disabilities graduating from high school than ever before. This bill will ensure the HEA is living up to the promise of the ADA and allowing all students to have equal access to higher education so they can fully participate in society.”
“I thank Reps. DeSaulnier, Scott, Langevin, and Huffman for introducing the Improving Access to Higher Education Act to make higher education more accessible for students with differing abilities,” said Whip Hoyer. “As the lead House sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am strongly committed to ensuring that all of our people can live up to their full potential. This bill will help more of our students do so by addressing affordability, accessibility, and completion of higher education degrees that will prepare them for well-paying jobs and opportunities.”
“Every student has the right to a quality education,” said Congressman Jared Huffman. “For students with disabilities in college, a quality education means providing an environment that fosters academic growth and gives them the individualized tools that they need to succeed. Unfortunately, college administrators and faculty face many challenges in providing these essential accommodations and instructional supports. The Improving Access to Higher Education Act will help level the playing field for students with disabilities, allowing every student to access the education and skills needed to live a meaningful and independent life.”
“Students with disabilities already face tremendous challenges inside and outside of the classroom, but gaining access to a quality postsecondary education shouldn’t be one of them,” Rep. Langevin said. “This bill will provide students with disabilities greater educational opportunities in preparation for a bright future in the workforce. The doors to higher education should be open for all students, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in leading a bill that will foster more inclusive curricula and learning environments.”
In 2005, just 46 percent of students with disabilities who graduated from high school enrolled in postsecondary education, with only 40 percent of those students going on to finish a degree or receive a work certificate within eight years. For students with disabilities who enroll in a four year institution, odds of completing a degree fall to just 34 percent. The Improving Access to Higher Education Act aims to address this gap in completion rates.
Specifically, the Improving Access to Higher Education Act would:
- Instruct institutions to provide comprehensive services to students with disabilities, such as personalized study plans, integrated housing among their peers, and partnerships with local education agencies
- Improve professional development and technical assistance to faculty and staff
- Develop best practices for institutions to integrate instructional materials and technology in the classroom
- Require institutions collect data assessing the success of the services provided to students with disabilities
- Incentivize institutions to create an Office of Accessibility to best address the needs of students receiving disability services
- Create two new $10 million grants to establish a National Teacher Assistance Center and National Coordinating Center for Inclusion of Students with Intellectual Disabilities
Organizations supporting the Improving Access to Higher Education Act includes: Teacher Education Division of CEC, Association of University Centers on Disability, American Foundation for the Blind, Higher Education Consortium for Special Education, National Council for Learning Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Congress, The Arc, and National Association of State Directors of Special Education.
The ‘Aim Higher’ initiative, is a series of bills which would provide students with the ability to access, afford, and complete a postsecondary degree, leading to a good-paying job.