Career Maturity and Academic Achievement in College Students with Disabilities

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Career Maturity and Academic Achievement in College Students with Disabilities

PAssage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Public Law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, opened the doors of America's universities to individuals with disabilities (McLoughlin, 1987). Colleges and universities took great care to insure that programs, facilities, instructional methods and technologies and curricula were accessible. In turn, individuals with disabilities matriculated in increasing numbers (Johnson & Rubin, 1982). For many students with disabilities, as with students in general, a college education became the first step towards independence, a career, financial security, and self-sustenance (Fichten, Amsel, Bourdon, & Creti, 1988). It is unclear, however, that students with disabilities are competing on a equal basis with their nondisabled counterparts, particularly with regard to vocational development and career maturity.

Many college students with disabilities enter school with either the direct support or urging of the vocational rehabilitation system, a system whose foundation has traditionally been laid in theories of vocational development. The emergence of a theory of vocational development and career maturity occurred with the work of Donald E. Super (1957; Srebalus, Marinelli, & Messing, 1982) who postulated five stages of vocational/career development:

1. The Growth Stage (0 to 14 years)

2. The Exploratory Stage (15 to 25 years)

3. The Establishment Stage (26 to 45 years)

4. The Maintenance Stage (46 to 65 years)

5. Decline (65 years to death)

Super regards vocational exploration and development as an integral part of self-concept development. The typical college student explores the world of work in a variety of ways. Role playing and role modeling occur through participation in clubs, organizations and sports, while curricula offer exploration opportunities through foundations courses, orientation courses, laboratories and the diversity of general education opportunities. Through these experiences the student builds the vocational self concept as one aspect of the total self-concept (Wright, 1980).

Career maturity, characterized by the (a) ability to plan in a manner utilizing existing resources; (b) acceptance of responsibility for choices; (c) Possessing an awareness of preferred occupations and; (d) competence in decision making (Super & Overstreet, 1960) is an important personal attribute. The construct was at the center of research done by Phillips, Strohmer, Berthaume and O'Leary (1983) which revealed that cognitively immature disabled students tended to rely on others for decision making, suggesting the importance of career support services. Evenson and Evenson (1983) asserted that collegians with disabilities are in greater need of career guidance services than their nondisabled peers. They noted that students with disabilities face attitudinal barriers including lowered expectations, delayed vocational development and unsatisfactory career development support services from state vocational rehabilitation programs, and contended that opportunities for career exploration would maximize educational opportunities. Ruffner (1981) noted the importance of marketable job skills for individuals with disabilities, while Hopkins-Best, Wiinimaki, and Yurcisin (1985) suggested the importance of porviding career education services in their study of college women with disabilities. Several authors (Bowe, 1983; Lonnquist, 1979; Rosenberg, 1978) have suggested the extrinsic gains to be made through higher education for the disabled, including higher salaries, lower unemployment rates, and better job prospects.

A growing number of learning disabled adults are attending college, however many are experiencing job finding and job retention difficulties and post-college adjustment problems (Butler, 1984; Miller, Mulkey, & Kopp, 1984). …