It may seem to be impossible but it may indeed happen in the near future that intellectually disabled students can go to college in New Jersey. Once students leave high school, there are often no other programs for them, and there is little help that they can pursue further studies.
New legislation may provide for some special education students to continue their education at Rutgers University in a certificate program.
“Next steps are never clear cut. We are always looking for more options in the community,” said Thomas Baffuto, executive director of Arc of New Jersey, a statewide that advocates for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. “Students with intellectual disabilities desire social integration among their peers and some desire the college experience, just like traditional learners.”
The state university would offer a program for intellectually disabled students under a bill that was approved by the Senate Higher Education Committee today. The legislation, which now goes to the full Senate for a vote, would provide Rutgers with $500,000 in state funding to develop a program.
“Starting this program at Rutgers will provide another avenue for those with intellectual disabilities to continue to learn, gain confidence and become better prepared for a successful life after high school,” said Sen. Robert Singer (R-Ocean), who co-sponsored the bill with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester). “As these students are now often integrated with their friends and peers in high school classrooms, it’s time we open up our publicly-funded state university to these same shared experiences as well.”
The College of New Jersey started a small, four-year program — called the Career and Community Studies — for intellectually disabled students on its Ewing campus a few years ago. Students receive a certificate, not a bachelor’s degree, after graduating.
If approved, the Rutgers program would be similar to the College of New Jersey’s program. Students would attend both traditional Rutgers classes and special career readiness classes, while participating in the social life on campus, supporters said. They would receive a certificate at the end of four years.