Wondering what will change as you or your student will encounter when transferring from high school to a college or university? Review the differences in education and laws.

Differences Between Secondary and Postsecondary Education

Adapted from Beloit College, Learning Enrichment and Disability Services Office, How College is Different than High School.

Applicable Laws

High Schools
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Colleges/Universities
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Regulations
FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)
Grinnell College
All of the information in the College section is applicable.

Goal

High Schools
Enable student success
Colleges/Universities
Provide equal access
Grinnell College
Disability resources provides equal access; other services for all students available to enhance success

Connecting with the Disability Services Office

High Schools
If a staff member or teacher believes a student has a disability the high school must work with the student and their family to create an IEP and transition plan.
Colleges/Universities
Students must self-report and actively seek resources from the disability services office. Disability services offices will often reach out to students who have disclosed to other staff but the student must respond to that outreach and complete the accommodations process in order to receive services.
Grinnell College
All of the information in the College section is applicable.

Documentation

High Schools
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
Section 504 plan
School conducts evaluations as needed.
Colleges/Universities
Student self-report
Director’s observations and interactions
Current evaluations from applicable professional including diagnosis, testing results, and other points may be required.
Student must get evaluation at own expense.
Grinnell College
Documentation guidelines based on Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) guidance.
IEPs and504s from high school and student interviews may be used as additional information.

Testing for Disabilities

High Schools
If a student is believed to have a disability and has not previously been tested, the High School has an obligation to help the student get tested and receive documentation
Colleges/Universities
If a student is under-documented or has never been tested, students are responsible for pursuing and paying for testing.
Grinnell College
All of the information in the College section is applicable.
If a student is unable to pay for required testing, they should speak with a disability resources professional who may be able to help pursue alternate routes of funding.

Parental Role

High Schools
School is required to include parents in process.
Parents have access to student records.
Parents advocate for student.
Colleges/Universities
College officials are precluded from including parents once student is enrolled (regardless of age).
Parents do not have access to students’ records in most cases.
Students advocate for themselves.
Grinnell College
The student can dictate how they do (or do not) want their parents involved in their accommodations process.
Once enrolled, parents do not have access to any disability services records unless student signs written consent.

Student Role

High Schools
Student is identified and supported by parents/teachers.
Implementing accommodations is school’s responsibility.
Colleges/Universities
Students self-identify to disabilities services or other designated staff (even if parents contact the office first).
Seeking and implementing accommodations is the student’s responsibility.
Grinnell College
Student chooses whether or not to self-identify and/or use services.
Once a student comes forward, the Disability Resources office will explain policies, procedures, and philosophy to student.

Teachers/Professors/Curriculum/Grades

High Schools
Modifications to curriculum and/or changes to the pace may be made. (Not for college credit classes, however.)
Multi-sensory approaches used.
Frequent testing, and graded assignments used.
Attendance taken and reported.
Grades may be modified based on curriculum.
Colleges/Universities
Modifying essential components of courses and/or curriculum is not an option.
Multi-sensory approaches may or may not be used. The frequency of tests and assignments varies. The types of evaluations vary significantly.
Attendance may or may not be taken; student is responsible for attending class.
Grades based upon the objectives and standards listed in the course syllabus.
Grinnell College
The College is writing intensive. Students are required to write in most classes.
Group work and class participation is a frequent expectation.
Classroom attendance is considered an essential component of the curriculum. Students that miss class frequently, regardless of the reason, may encounter situations where faculty will not take the late work and may fail the student for lack of participation.

Course Selections and Requirements

High Schools
Courses selected by counselor; requirements may be modified to accommodate disability.
Colleges/Universities
Student is responsible for knowing requirements and with the guidance of an adviser, selecting courses.
Course substitutions for requirements may occur in specific situations.
Grinnell College
Students must articulate any concerns or issues with particular requirements to their adviser. Most often the student and their adviser can choose courses in the open curriculum which minimize the impact of the disability.

Process

High Schools
 
Colleges/Universities
When a student (or parent of a student) discloses a disability to an employee (excluding health and counseling services), the information is to be communicated to disability services (or the faculty-staff member refers the student disability services).
Grinnell College
If the Disability Services office receives information regarding a disability from any source, staff members then reach out to student to let the student know of available resources, policies, procedures, and philosophy.

Housing Accommodations

High Schools
Usually not relevant as most traditional-aged h.s. students live at home.
Colleges/Universities
Some colleges have the housing staff make accommodation decisions; others have the disability services provider make such decisions.
Grinnell College
Students are to make requests for housing accommodations to Residence Life staff who process accommodation requests. Residence Life staff may consult with other disability services professionals to determine the best accommodations.

Differences Between Secondary and Postsecondary Disability Laws

Source: Kay McVey, Faculty Development Specialist, PROJECT CONNECT, Henderson State University, Legal Rights and Responsibilities

What is the law?

Secondary (High School)
IDEA and Section 504
Postsecondary (College)
ADA and Section 504 (Subpart E)

What is the intent of the law?

Secondary (High School)
IDEA: To provide a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to students with disabilities.
504: To ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability is denied access to, benefits of, or is subjected to discrimination in any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity.
Postsecondary (College)
To ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability will be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity.

Who is covered under the law?

Secondary (High School)
All infants, children and youth requiring special education services until age 21 or graduation from high school.
Postsecondary (College)
All qualified individuals with disabilities who meet the entry age level criteria or particular program entry criteria of the college and who can document the existence of a disability as defined by the ADA.

Who is responsible for identifying and documenting the need?

Secondary (High School)
School districts are responsible for identifying, evaluating and planning educational services at no expense to the parent or individual.
Postsecondary (College)
Students are responsible for self-identification and for obtaining disability documentation from a professional who is qualified to assess their particular disability. The student, not the institution, assumes the cost of the evaluation.

Who is responsible for initiating service delivery?

Secondary (High School)
School districts are responsible for identifying students with disabilities and providing special instruction, individualized education plans, and/or accommodations.
Postsecondary (College)
Students are responsible for notifying the Disability Support Services staff of their disability and of their need for accommodations. Accommodations (not special education) are provided on a semester by semester basis in order for students with disabilities to have equal access to the institution's programs, services and activities.

Who is responsible for enforcing the law?

Secondary (High School)
IDEA is basically a funding statute, enforced by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the U.S. Department of Education. ADA/504 are civil rights statues, enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Justice, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Postsecondary (College)
Section 504 (Subpart E) is a civil rights statute enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education.
The ADA is also a civil rights statute enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

What about self-advocacy?

Secondary (High School)
The parent or guardian is the primary advocate. Students with disabilities should learn about their disability, the importance of self-advocacy, the accommodation(s) they need, and ways to become a self-advocate.
Postsecondary (College)
Students must be able to communicate what their disability is, their strengths, weaknesses, how the disability impacts and functionally limits major life activities. They must be able to identify and justify any requested accommodations.