Why College?

Every young person wants a chance to live life to the fullest of his or her abilities. Until recently, Colorado students who have an intellectual disability lacked that opportunity. Most faced one of three futures after high school: retreating into a life with an aging family member as caregiver; depending on taxpayer-supported daycare facilities; or low-skill, low-wage, low-advancement supported employment. But now there is another option: Inclusive College.

We believe that higher education is a vehicle for self-empowerment and access to social networks, employment, and independence. The Inclusive Higher Education Certificate Program (IHECP) provides inclusive college experiences for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) where, just like every other student, they attend classes, interact with faculty, and explore all that college life offers. As students pursue their academic interests, they develop their social skills, learn independence, and expand their career options while increasing earning potential. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities now have options.

The IHECP team has extensively researched current, established, successful programs in other states to create a hybrid program: the first, truly inclusive, college program in the state of Colorado. In partnership with Metropolitan State University-Denver, the IHECP pilot program successfully launched Fall Semester 2015. Currently, five students are enrolled in the “College Preparation” program and two students are enrolled in the “Inclusive Education Certificate Program”.

Instant Impact! Upon completion of their first semester, our students have demonstrated exponential growth in the areas of academics, independence, and confidence. We are equipping students with the skills and experiences necessary to promote social change and to increase equality among individuals with IDD. Social justice is necessary and imminent.

“In order for students to become full contributing members of our society, we must give them the tools to direct themselves to get what they want and need to be successful in life.”

Higher education leads to a variety of personal and financial benefits. It is an integral part of establishing a successful career path and enhancing earnings over a lifetime (Carnevale, Rose, & Cheah, 2011). However, up until recently, low expectations coupled with minimal opportunities have prevented people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) from receiving the benefits associated with higher education.

Research Shows

Research shows a variety of benefits to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who engage in post-secondary education including:

  • Understanding the role of education in career success
  • Development of career skills: professionalism, communication, and ambition
  • Doubled rate of employment over peers who are only high-school graduates
  • Consistently higher earnings over time
  • Decreased dependence on SSI and SSDI income supports

Without higher education and improved rates of employment, the estimated cost to taxpayers for lifelong warehousing of adults who have an intellectual disability is $1.5 million per person.

Research shows 92% of adults who have an intellectual disability (IDD) and NO college experience are unemployed.

Conversely, 87% of adults who have an intellectual disability and college experience are employed or in job training.

Results. This research demonstrates that by encouraging the academic, social, vocational, and community independence of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, they can become active, contributing members of our communities and empowered citizens in our society.

“Data from the national vocational rehabilitation database (RSA 911) show that youth with IDD who participated in postsecondary education were 25 percent more likely to leave vocational rehabilitation services with a paid job and earn a 73 percent higher weekly income,” (Migliore, Mank, Grossi & Rogan, 2007).

“The overall goal for providing education services in postsecondary settings is to give older students with disabilities age-appropriate settings for their final public education and transition experiences,” (Grigal, Neubert, & Moon, 2002, p. 68).


Grigal, M., Neubert, D. A., & Moon, M. S. (2002). Postsecondary options for students with significant disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(2), 68-73.

Migliore, A., Mank, D., Grossi, T., & Rogan, P. (2007). Integrated employment or sheltered workshops: Preferences of adults with intellectual disabilities, their families, and staff. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, Vol. 26, 5-19.