Postsecondary Education for Students with Learning Disabilities

By Nelson, Ron; Lignugaris/Kraft, Benjamin | Exceptional Children, November 1989 | Go to article overview

Postsecondary Education for Students with Learning Disabilities


Nelson, Ron, Lignugaris/Kraft, Benjamin, Exceptional Children


Postsecondary Education for Students with Learning Disabilities

ABSTRACT: Increasingly, students with learning disabilities are attending community colleges

and traditional 4-year colleges and universities. This article presents the results of a review of

the literature on services available or recommended for students with learning disabilities. The

results suggest that postsecondary institutions have begun to provide a wide array of services

to these students. There is little empirical evidence, however, on the effectiveness of those

services. An agenda for future research is also discussed. * Increasing numbers of students with learning disabilities are pursuing postsecondary education in community colleges and traditional 4-year higher education institutions (Adult Committee of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, ACLD, 1982; Decker, Polloway, & Decker, 1985; Ostertag, Baker, Howard, & Best, 1982; Ugland & Duane, 1976; White et al., 1982). For example, college officials at 106 California community colleges reported that 7,982 learning disabled students were receiving services through the community college learning disability programs (Ostertag et al., 1982). Moreover, in a survey of adults with learning disabilities, 14% reported they had tried college and dropped out, 32% were currently attending college, and another 9% reported that they had completed their bachelor's degrees (White et al., 1982).

College officials have developed an increasing number of support programs in response to the influx of learning disabled students on college campuses (Mangrum & Strichart, 1983a). The number of support programs has increased for several reasons. First, the enactment of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was a major impetus for establishing postsecondary programs for learning disabled students. Second, the development of services at the college level is an outgrowth of services provided initially in elementary schools and later in junior and senior high schools (Decker et al., 1985; Gray, 1981a; Mangrum & Strichart, 1983a; Sedita, 1980). Third, the ACLD and other national and local organizations have campaigned actively to persuade college and university personnel to develop programs to assist these students on college campuses. These lobbying efforts, combined with student interest in attending college, have brought pressure on colleges to develop programs to assist students with learning disabilities (Mangrum & Strichart), 1983a). Finally, many colleges face declining student enrollments. Learning disabled students with the potential for college success represent a source of new enrollments for colleges (Mangrum & Strichart, 1983a).

The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on the types of services available to learning disabled students and identify additional services needed in postsecondary institutions. In addition, future research needs are discussed.

LITERATURE REVIEWED

The literature examined was identified through a computer search of the Exceptional Child Education Resources Abstract, Dissertation Abstracts, and Psychological Abstracts. Descriptors included learning disabled, dyslexia, disabilities, academic failure, learning programs, postsecondary education, adult education, higher education, and continuing education. In addition, an ancestral search was conducted from the identified articles. Articles reviewed referred specifically to programs or discussed the need for programs for learning disabled students (or other commonly used classification labels, such as dyslexia) at community colleges or traditional 4-year higher education settings and were published following the enactment of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Articles not included in this review were those that examined specific characteristics (e.g., written language) of college learning disabled students or referred to postsecondary settings other than community colleges or traditional 4-year higher education institutions (e. …

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