Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Students with Learning Disabilities in the Community College: Their Goals, Issues, Challenges and Successes

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Students with Learning Disabilities in the Community College: Their Goals, Issues, Challenges and Successes

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study sought to obtain information regarding the experiences of students with learning disabilities (LDs) in the community college. This concurrent mixed methods study utilized the Learning Disability Student Questionnaire (LDSQ) and the Disability Services Questionnaire (DSQ) to survey a sample of students attending the community college in the south central United States who had self-identified as having a learning disability, and disability support services counselors. Focus group interviews were also conducted with LD students. The LD students related both positive and negative experiences during their education at the community college, and obtaining an Associate's degree was the goal cited most frequently. Overall, the LD students were satisfied with DSSD services, and felt they were effective in assisting them to achieve their educational goals. Problems cited by student participants are reported. Themes of desire to succeed, perseverance, desire for understanding, and personal accountability emerged from the data. Several conclusions and recommendations are offered to community colleges to assist LD and other disabled students to achieve their educational goals.

Key Words: Community Colleges, Students with Learning Disabilities, Disabililty Support Services

The community college offers educational opportunities to a diverse population of students. Many of the students attending the community college are considered non-traditional, and have numerous factors not faced by traditional-age students that can impede their ability to have adequate study time and preparation time needed for their coursework, which can affect retention in this population. Given the reality that the non-traditional student population that is often found in the community college setting has various coexistent factors that can negatively impact educational goal attainment, what of those students who also have learning disabilities (LD)?

BACKGROUND

Today, a community college education is the avenue utilized by many students to begin their higher education pursuits. A majority of students with disabilities have turned to two-year colleges for their educational needs; of the students with disabilities in higher education institutions in 1997-1998, fifty-five percent were enrolled in community colleges. This increase is attributed to, among other factors, enhanced technology, expanded support service programs, and higher expectations of what students with disabilities can accomplish (Prentice, 2002).

Learning disabilities (LD) are the most common form of disability found in the college-age population, but often are unrecognized (Eliason, 1992, p. 375). According to Henderson (Finn, 1992), the category of LD has had the highest growth rate among all

categories of disabilities in postsecondary institutions, and approximately 25 percent of all first-time full-time freshmen who reported having a disability in 1991 had a LD. Learning disabled students attend the community college at a higher rate than other higher education institutions (Barnett, 1992; Bigaj & Shaw, 1995; & Henderson, 1992).

Data reported in 1991 from the National Longitudinal Study of Special Education Students found that persons with LDs attended two-year vocational, community, or junior colleges more frequently than four-year colleges or universities (Bigaj & Shaw, 1995). Henderson (1992) also noted that 59 percent of freshmen students with LD attended two-year colleges and 40 percent attended four-year colleges. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) reported that LDs now constitute the largest single category of disability served by disability service offices in the community colleges (Barnett, 1992).

Disability Support Services departments (DSSDs) were set up to provide accommodations to students with disabilities. Most community colleges serve students who have a variety of disabilities through accommodations set up by the DSSDs, and it is the Disability Services offered by the college that can be the deciding factor for the student regarding the choice of institution (Cocchi, 1997). …

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